Categories Medieval India



  • The Khilji dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Turkic origin. It was founded by Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji and became the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India. The dynasty is known for their faithlessness and ferocity.
  • Khiljis were vassals of the Mamluk dynasty (Slave dynasty) of Delhi and served the Sultan of Delhi, Ghiyasuddin Balban. Balban’s successors were murdered over 1289-1290, and the Mamluk dynasty succumbed to the factional conflicts within the Mamluk dynasty and the Muslim nobility. As the struggle between the factions razed, Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji led a coup and murdered the 17 year old Mamluk successor Muizuddin Qaiqabad – the last ruler of Mamluk dynasty.
  • Jalaluddin Firuz Khilji was accepted as sultan by a faction of Muslim amirs of Turkic, Persian, Arabic factions and Indian-Muslim aristocrats. However, Jalaluddin in his old age was unpopular and not universally accepted. During his six year reign (1290–96), some of Balban’s officers revolted due to his assumption of power and the subsequent sidelining of nobility and commanders serving the Mamluk dynasty. Jalaluddin suppressed the revolt and executed some commanders, then led an unsuccessful expedition against Ranthambhor and repelled a Mongol force on the banks of the Sind River in central India with the help of his nephew Juna Khan (Alauddin Khilji).
  • Juna Khan later to be known as Alauddin Khilji, was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin, raided the Hindu Deccan peninsula and Deogiri -the capital of the Hindu state of Maharashtra, looting their treasure. He returned to Delhi in 1296 murdered his uncle and father-in-law, then assumed power as Sultan.
  • The brief period of Khalji rule (1290-1320), saw important changes in the socio-economic and administrative structure of the Delhi sultanat. It also raised important questions regarding the nature of the state and polity in India.
  • The most important consequence of the rise to power of the Khaljis was the broadening of the social base of the ruling class.
  • The early Turkish sultans who are called the Ilbaris on the basis of their tribal origin, or Mamuluks, i.e. slave-officers, had believed in the virtual monopoly of important posts in the state by high born Turks. The Tajiks who had formed an important part of the nobility under Iltutmish had been largely eliminated shortly after his death. The presence of an Abyssinian, Yaqut, or an Indian Muslim, Raihan and of the Khaljis in important positions on the frontiers was more in the nature of exceptions rather than the rule.
  • Barani says that with the accession of the Khaljis, the empire passed from the hands of the Turks, and that the people of the city of Delhi who had for eighty years been governed by sovereigns of Turkish extraction, “were struck by admiration and amazement at seeing the Khaljis occupying the throne of the Turks.”(

 Jalaluddin’s Approaches to the State

  • While the rise of Khaljis brought forward a new group of people to positions of power and authority, the founder, Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-96), did not follow a policy of narrow exclusivism. Many Turks and officers of Balban’s time who visited Jalaluddin were given important posts and iqtas. Even Malik Chhajju Kishli Khan, a nephew of Balban, was appointed governor of Kara which was considered one of the most fertile and prosperous tracts. Nor were drastic punishments meted out when Malik Chhajju rebelled, marched on Delhi, and was defeated.
  • But even more importantly, Jalaluddin put forward by his actions the concept of a new type of a state, one which was based fundamentally on the good-will and support of the people of all communities, one which was basically beneficent and looked after the welfare of its subjects. Thus, unlike Balban, he refused to identify sovereignty with self-pride and tyranny. In the language of Barani, he believed in a policy of  “not harming even an ant”.
  • Although Jalaluddin Khalji was a pious Muslim, he considered as unrealistic a policy of forcible conversion of the Hindus or their humiliation, as demanded by some theologians. In a discussions with his close associate, Ahmad Chap, he defended the policy of allowing Hindus to worship idols, preach their beliefs, and observe practices which were the hall-mark of infidelity. Likewise, the Hindus were allowed to live a life of ease and splendour and honour even at Delhi, the centre of Islam.
  • According to him, while by a policy of terror, fear of the government and its prestige could be established in the hearts of the people for a short time, it would mean discarding (true) Islam.
  • Jalaluddin Khalji’s nephew and son-in-law, Alauddin Khalji, (1296-1316) who ascended the throne after treacherously murdering his uncle, did not accept the liberal, humanitarian precepts of Jalaluddin.
  • Nevertheless, the principles enunciated by Jalaluddin had a long term relevance. In one form or another, they had to be faced by almost all his successors. Thus, Jalaluddin’s reign has a long term significance which is often ignored.

Alauddin Khalji’s Approaches to the State

  • Alauddin Khalji did not accept Jalaluddin’s theory of benevolence and humanitarianism, considering them to the unsuitable to the times, and signifying a weak government. He adhered more to Balban’s theory of fear being the basis of good government, a theory which he applied to the nobles as well as to the ordinary people. Thus, after the outbreak of a couple of rebellions early in his reign, including one by his nephew, Aqat Khan, he decided to take harsh measures to keep the nobles under control. He revived Balban’s system of spies who kept him informed of all developments, even those in the privacy of the houses of the nobles.
  • The nobles were forbidden to associate with each other, or hold convivial parties. In fact, even for forming marriage alliances they had to seek the permission of the Sultan.
  • Alauddin Khalji hearkened back to Balban’s belief—one which the historian Barani shared, that the people should not be left enough means to harbour thoughts of rebellion. As a part of this policy he ordered that all charitable lands, i.e. lands assigned in waqf or inam, should be confiscated.
  • Almost all the nobles of Jalaluddin’s time, whom Alauddin had won over to his side by the lure of gold and positions, were uprooted, and their accumulated wealth confiscated.
  • Wine drinking was also forbidden. However, Alauddin admitted to the Chief Qazi that buying and selling of wine did not stop.
  • Barani would have us believe that Alauddin Khalji’s agrarian reforms were also a part of this policy of reducing the people, i.e. the Hindus to a position of destitution in order to avoid rebellions.
  • When some of the Mongol soldiers who had participated in the campaign launched against Gujarat rebelled against the policy of the state claiming 4/5 of the war spoils, Alauddin imprisoned their wives and children living at Delhi, a practice which Barani says was a novel one. Alauddin’s brother, Nusrat Khan, went one step further: he gave savage punishments to the women and children of those who had rebelled against Alauddin.
  • However, Alauddin accepted Jalaluddin Khalji’s contention that a truely Islamic state could not be set up in the specific conditions obtaining in India. In his discussions with Qazi Mughis of Delhi, as reported by Barani, he asserted that splendour and show, and award of punishments not sanctioned by shara or the Holy Law were inescapable in India. In fact, he went so far as to assert, “I do not know what is lawful or unlawful according to shara. Whatever I consider necessary for the state or for its welfare, I decree.”
  • Barani sadly concludes that Alauddin was convinced that matters concerning the state and administration were independent of the rules and orders of the sharia, and that while the former pertained to kings alone, the latter had been assigned to qazis and muftis (i.e. those concerned with justice in the courts).
  • During Alauddin Khalji’s reign, the non-Turks were no longer kept back, and forged ahead. This was the reason why Alauddin was able to choose, and promote to the top, many non-Turks such as Zafar Khan and Nusrat Khan, and later Malik Kafur, a non-Turk slave who had been captured in Gujarat. Malik Nayak, a Hindu who had been governor of Samana and Sunam, was given command of an army with Muslims officers serving under him, which inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mongols.

Agrarian and Market Reforms of Alauddin

  • Alauddin Khalji’s agrarian and market reforms should be seen both in the context of the efforts at the internal restructuring of the sultanat, as also the need to create a large army to meet the threat of recurrent Mongol invasions.

(a) Agrarian reforms

Bringing Land under Khalisa

  • The essence of Alauddin Khalji’s agrarian reforms was to bring the villages in closer association with the government in the area extending from Dipalpur and Lahore to Kara near modern Allahabad. In this region, the villages were to be brought under khalisa, i.e. not assigned to any of the nobles as iqta.
  • Lands assigned in charitable grants were also confiscated and brought under khalisa.
  • Further, the land revenue (kharaj) in this area was fixed at half of the produce, and assessed on the basis of measurement (paimaish).
  • Barani, who is our main source of information, does not tell us about the method and mode of the measurement of the fields. On the basis of the measurements of the area under cultivation, and a standard of expected production per bisiwa (1/20 of the bigha), the share of the state was determined.
  • Apart from this, no extra cesses were to be levied, except a grazing tax (charai) on cattle and ghari on houses. Both these taxes had been levied earlier and were traditional.
  • The land-revenue was calculated in kind, but demanded in cash. For the purpose, the cultivators had either to sell the produce to the banjaras, or take it for sale to the local market (mandi).
  • We do not know to what extent Alauddin’s demand of half of the produce marked a rise in the land revenue demand since we have no information about the actual incidence of land-revenue earlier, either under the Rajput rulers or the early Turkish rulers. Although the Dharmashastras prescribed a land-revenue of one-fourth to one-sixth which could rise to half in times of emergency, there were a lot of sanctioned taxes in addition to the land-revenue whose incidence is not known. Thus, the formula used for assigning land to nobles was bhaga, bhog, kar, i.e. land-revenue, cesses and taxes. These must have continued under the early Turkish rulers. Whether Alauddin merely consolidated all these taxes into one or raised the total amount payable by the cultivator is something we do not know.
  • Likewise, measurement was an old system, but had apparently fallen into disuse in north India. It may have been revived in some areas by earlier rulers, such as Balban, because Barani does not refer to it as a totally unknown system. However, its systematic application over a wide area was a significant contribution of Alauddin.
  • The bringing of doab under khalisa, and establishing direct relations with the cultivators, did not imply that all intermediaries were removed. Since long there was a hierarchy of intermediaries in the rural areas, with the Rai, Rana, Rawat standing at the top. These are called chiefs. A chief sometimes controlled a considerable tract of land which was parcelled out to his clan and other supporters for collecting land-revenue. At the village level there was the village head, called chaudhari or muqaddam.
  • As the Turkish sultanat consolidated itself in the doab, the power and authority of the rais and ranas was eroded, and some of them were displaced. In the process, there was the rise of a new set of intermediaries who operated at the pargana or shit (district) level. These apparently, were the people whom Barani called Khuts and for whom the word zamindar is used for the first time by Khusrau. The word zamindar began to be used widely later on for all types of intermediaries.
  • Alauddin’s agrarian reforms implied putting greater pressure for the displacement of the rais or ranas. However many of the chiefs who paid a lump-sum of money to the state as land-revenue, the lands dominated by such chiefs were not brought under khalisa.

Curbing privileges of intermediaries

  • In the area brought under khalisa, Alauddin tried to curb the privileges of the khuts, muqaddams and chaudharis. These sections formed the rural aristocracy and, according to Barani, were rich enough to ride Arabi and Iraqi, horses, wear weapons and fine clothes, and indulge in wine drinking and holding convivial parties. Their wealth was based on their holding the best lands in the village. Also, in a system where the village was assessed as a whole (called group-assessment), they often passed on the burden of their share of the land-revenue on to the shoulders of the weak.
  • Alauddin not only forced the khuts, muqaddams and chaudharis to pay the grazing and house taxes like the others, and through the system of measurement ensured that they could not pass on their burden of land-revenue on to the shoulders of the others. They were also deprived of the khuti charges for collecting land-revenue.
  • Thus, in the language of Barani, they were reduced to the level of the balahar, or the lowest of the low in village society, the menial and their women were forced to go and work in the houses of Muslims for wages.
  • Since it was hardly possible for Alauddin to effect a redistribution of land in the villages, and these sections generally held the largest and the best lands, they must have continued to remain a privileged section in village society. However, we may accept Barani’s statement that for fear of punishment, these sections became obedient, and would go to the collector’s office for payment of land-revenue.

Reform in revenue administration

  • While reforming the agrarian system, Alauddin tried to ensure the efficient and honest working of the machinery of revenue administration. This was not easy since with the extension of the khalisa, large numbers of accountants (mutsarrif), collectors (amils), and agents (gumashtas) had to be appointed.That this was done in a comparatively short period shows how the new rulers were able to reach out even to the small towns. Alauddin desired that the accounts of all these officials should be audited strictly by the naib wazir, Sharaf Qais, and if on the basis of the account-book of the village patwaris— something we hear of for the first time, even a jital was found to be outstanding against them, they were to be severely punished. Alauddin was prepared to give them sufficient wages to lead a decent life, but took a serious view of their bribe taking and corruption.
  • Barani goes on to say in his characteristic way that none of the amils and mutsarrifs could take bribes, and had been reduced to such a position by hardships, imprisonment for long periods or torture for small outstanding dues that people considered these posts to be worse, and were not prepared to marry their daughters to those who held them.

Effects of Alauddin’s agrarian reforms

  • Perhaps, a significant and lasting effect of Alauddin’s agrarian reforms was the furthering of the growth of a market economy in the villages, and bringing about a more integral relationship between the town and the country, thus furthering the process of the internal restructuring of the Sultanat.
  • The agrarian reforms of Alauddin affected the cultivators adversely for the policy was to leave the cultivator with so little as to be barely enough for carrying on cultivation and his food requirements. The fear of the government was such that the cultivators would sell even their wives and cattle to pay the land-revenue.
  • Alauddin’s system of measurement, of trying to limit the exactions of the local privileged sections, and of auditing the accounts of the local revenue officials with the help of the bahis (ledger books) of the village patwaris set up a standard and a direction which some of his successors, such as Sher Shah and Akbar, tried to emulate.
  • But his effort to limit the emoluments of the privileged sections was only partially successful. These sections were too influential, and under Alauddin’s successor, Mubarak Shah, the privileges of the khuts and muqaddams were restored, and many of Alauddin’s revenue measures given up.

(b) Market Reforms of Alauddin

  • Alauddin Khalji’s market reforms were oriented more towards administrative and military necessities than internal restructuring.
  • Medieval rulers were expected to ensure that necessities of life, especially food-grains, should be available to the city folk at fair or reasonable prices. This was so because the cities were the sinews of power and authority all over the Islamic world, the village-folk being considered backward and immersed in their own narrow world.
  • However, apart from imposing periodic checks on the traders, few rulers had been able to control the prices effectively. Alauddin Khalji was more or less the first ruler who looked at the problem of price control in a systematic manner, and was able to maintain stable prices for a considerable period.
  • Barani says that Alauddin Khalji instituted the market reforms because after the Mongol siege of Delhi, he wanted to recruit a large army, but all his treasurers would have soon been exhausted if he had to pay them their normal salaries. As a result of price control and the fall in prices, he was able to recruit a cavalry man with one horse, and pay him 238 tankas annually, and 75 tankas more for one with two horses.(
  • Barani gives us a second reason for the market reforms. He think that it was a part of Alauddin’s general policy to impoverish the Hindus so that they would cease to harbour thoughts of rebellion.
  • According to Barani, Alauddin set up three markets at Delhifirst for food-grains, the second for cloth and expensive items such as sugar, ghee, oil, dry fruits etc., and the third for horses, slaves and cattle.
  • Detailed regulations (zawabit) were framed for the control and administration for all these markets. He issued a set of seven regulations which came to be known as market control measures. These measures were enacted to regulate the activities of the traders who brought grain to Delhi. The Sultan fixed the prices of all commoditions from grain to cloths, slaves, cattle etc. A controller of market (shahna-i-mandi) intelligence officers (barids) and secret spies (munhiyan) were appointed. The grain merchants were placed under the Shahna-i-mandi. Regrating (ihtikar) was prohibited.

(1) Food Market:

  • For controlling the food prices, Alauddin tried to control not only the supply of food-grains from the villages, and its transportation to the city by the grain-merchants (karwanis or banjaras), but its proper distribution to the citizens. These undoubtedly were the three most important aspects in controlling food prices.
  • Alauddin’s first effort was to see that there were sufficient stocks of food-grains with the government so that the traders did not try to hike up prices by creating an artificial scarcity, or indulge in profiteering. For the purpose, royal stores were set up at Delhi. It was ordered that in the area near Delhi, such as Jhain, half of the royal share, i.e. one-fourth of the produce was to be demanded in kind. The grains was first to be stored locally, then sent to Delhi.
  • The task of transporting food-grains from the countryside was generally carried out by karwaniyan or banjaras, some of whom had 10,000 or 20,000 bullocks. These banjaras were ordered to form themselves into one corporate body, giving sureties for each other. They were to settle on the banks of the Jamuna with their wives, children, goods and cattle. An official (shuhna) was appointed to oversee them. In normal times these banjaras brought so much food-grains into the city that it was not necessary to touch the royal stores.
  • To ensure the regular supply of food-grains to the banjaras, a number of Regulations were made. In the doab, and in an area of 100 kos around it which had been brought under khalisa, and where the land revenue fixed at half of the produce, the local official charged with the responsibility of collecting land revenue were asked to be so strict that the cultivators sold their food-grains for payment of land revenue to the merchants at cheap prices without taking them to their houses, i.e. to their storage pits.
  • If the cultivators could sell more, i.e. what was beyond their personal needs and for seed, they could do so. However, the local officials were asked to sign a bond that they would not permit anyone to regrate, or sell at a price higher than the official price. If anyone violated this order, the food-grains were confiscated, and the regrator, i.e. the cultivator or grocer, and the official concerned, severely punished.
  • Barani tells us that the cultivators were not to keep more than 10 man of grains for themselves. All the food-grains were to be brought to the market (mandis) for foodgrains set up by Alauddin, and sold only at official prices.
  • Alauddin took strict measures to see that the prices laid down by him were strictly observed. An officer (shehna) with an adequate force was appointed in charge of the market with strict instructions to punish anyone who violated the orders.
  • Barani says that in consequence the price of grains fell. Thus, wheat was sold for 71/2 jital per man, barley for 4 jital, superior quality rice for 5 jital, grams 5 jital etc.(Alauddin’s silver tanka contained about one tola or 250 mg of silver, 48 to 50 jitals of copper made a tanka)
  • Alauddin also instituted a system of rationing during times of scarcity. Each grocer was issued an amount of grains from the government stores bearing in mind the population of the ward. No individual was allowed to buy more than half a man at one time. But this was not applied to the nobles. If they did not have villages or lands of their own, they were issued grains in accordance with the number of their dependants.
  • Barani says that in consequence of these measures, even during times of famine there was no shortage of food-grains at Delhi and the price of food-grains did not increase even by a dam or a dirham. This is supported by Isami, a contemporary of Barani.

(2) The cloth-market or sarai-i-adl (which also sold dry fruits, herbs, ghee, oil etc which could be kept for a long time)

  • Alauddin ordered that all cloth brought by the merchants from different parts of the country including foreign lands, was to be stored and sold only in this market at government rates. If any commodity was sold even at a jital higher than the official price, it would be confiscated and the seller punished.(
  • To ensure an adequate supply of all the commodities, all the merchants were registered and a deed taken from them that they would bring the same quantities of commodities to the sarai-adl every year, and sell them at government rates.
  • These steps were not new, but two steps show fresh thinking. First, the rich Multani merchants, i.e. those who brought commodities from long-distances including foreign countries, were given an advance of 20 lakh tankas from the treasury, on condition that they did not sell them to any intermediaries, but sold them at the sarai-adl at official rates. Second, the power and responsibility for obeying these orders were given to a body of merchants themselves.
  • In order to ensure that costly cloth was not purchased by people and given to others who would take it out of Delhi, and sold in the neighbouring towns at four to five times the price, an officer was appointed to issue permits to amirs, maliks, etc for the purchase of these costly commodities in accordance with their income.

(3) The market for horses, cattle and slaves

  • The supply of horses of good quality at fair prices was important both for the military department and the soldier. The horse trade was more or less a monopolistic trade, the overland trade being monopolised by Multanis and Afghans. But they were sold in the market by middle-men or dallals.
  • According to Barani, the rich dallals were as powerful as the officials of the market, and resorting to bribery and other corrupt practices. The horse-merchants were in league with the dallas to raise the price of horses.
  • Alauddin took harsh measures against such dallals. They were banished from the town, and some of them imprisoned. Then, with the help of other dallals, the quality and the price of horses was fixed as per quality.
  • Alauddin wanted that rich men and dallals should not go to the horse-market, and that the horse merchants should sell the horses directly to the military department (diwan-i-arz). But his efforts to eliminate the middle-men were not quite successful, though Barani tells us that the prices of the horses fixed by Alauddin remained stable throughout his reign.
  • Similarly, the price of slave boys and girls, and of cattle were also fixed. Apparently, these prices were fixed to make life a little easier for the nobles, the richer sections including government servants, and the soldiers who had become accustomed to buy slaves for domestic and personal service. Likewise,the animals were needed for meat, transport, and for milk and milk products.

Impact of Market Reform:

  • Barani says that the stability of prices under Alauddin, which was a cause of wonder, was due to Alauddin’s strictness. The Sultan kept himself informed of the prices through a series of informers, even sending small boys to the market to see that the shopkeepers did not cheat them by under-weighing. Barani tells us that if a shop-keeper under-weighed, twice the amount of flesh would be cut off from his body.
  • But the scheme itself could have hardly functioned for a decade or more without the minimum support of the traders, and the wider community.
  • The measures were not designed to harm any one community. The merchants whose names were entered into a register, were both Hindus and Muslims. So also the Multanis and the dallals of the horse-merchants who were so tightly controlled that they were fed up with their lives and wished for death.
  • The price, control system affected trade severely. The merchants were unable to realise sufficient profits. The rule was enforced so rigidly that no corn-dealer, farmer or anyone else could hold back secretly a mound or half a mound of grain and sell it far above the fixed price.
  • The cultivators most certainly would have been affected adversely by the low price of food-grains, and the high land-revenue.
  • After the death of Alauddin his market reforms vanished. Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah who succeeded him, not only released the large number of persons imprisoned or exiled from Delhi on account of various offences, he withdrew the laws which denied freedom to people to eat, wear, speak or buy or sell what they wanted.
  • Barani states that the market reforms of Alauddin were applicable only to Delhi. If that was so, it was hardly necessary to control the supply of food-grains all over the doab. Also, soldiers and their families did not live at Delhi alone. Barani himself suggests in a work devoted to political theory that whatever was done at the capital was generally followed in the other towns. However, we have no means of ascertaining how effective were the price controls in the towns other than Delhi.
  • Apparently, the regulations of Alauddin resulted in a lot of vexatious, bureaucratic controls and corruption. Perhaps Alauddin would have been more successful if he had controlled the prices of essential commodities only, or those meant for direct use by the military. But he tried to control the price of everything. Such widespread, centralised controls were bound to be violated, inviting punishments which led to resentment.
  • Thus, by their very nature, Alauddin Khalji’s market reforms were temporary, and largely meant to tide over an emergency, or a particular situation.
  • But in positive note, the impact of Alauddin Khilji’s market reforms on the contemporary society was immense. The fact that articles were sold at cheap rates in Delhi made many to migrate to Delhi. Among them were learned men and excellent craftsmen. As a result the fame of Delhi increased.(
  • The people of Delhi were prepared to follow the rules prescribed by the state. They became more disciplined. Hence crime decreased. They benefited the state very much.
  • This created an environment of socio-cultural development. Literature, the mirror of a society, took a new life. A distinct type of literature was born in the khanqah (hospice) of Nizamuddin Auliya. It is known as Malfuz (sufi) literature which gives mystic version of the history between 1308 to 1322. Fawaid-ul-Fuwad, the first mulfuz literature, was compiled by a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya, Amir Hasan Sijzi.  Amir Khusro and Ziauddin Barni also belonged to the same period.
  • Alauddin Khilji’s military strength had increased on account of the price control system. It not only provided strength and stability to the administration but also provided employment to the people. Through employment he checked the social unrest on the one hand and on the other hand he saved the people from the Mongol menace,’ controlled the revolts of local chiefs and led the successful expedition to South India.
  • Because of the price control people from adjoining areas flocked to Delhi to purchase grain at the fixed rates. The benefit of the reforms not only trickled down to other areas but it also paved the way for the cultural inter course among the people of the Delhi Sultanate. It resulted into what is now called, a composite culture.
  • The task of transporting food grains from the country side was generally carried out by karwans and banjaras. They were ordered to form themselves into one corporate body, giving sureties for each other. In this process they became, though unconsciously, the carrier of different ideas and notions into the territory of Delhi, which further enriched the evolving socio- cultural life of Delhi.
  • The regulations also provided for the rationing of grain in times of drought or famine. A quantity of corn sufficient for the daily supply of each mohalah to the capital was consigned to local corn dealers (baqqals) everyday from the government stores. We do not hear of any large scale famine and death or starvation during the reign of Alauddin Khilji. Such a successful food and social security could have been possible only by the wise economic reforms and strict control of the market by the government.

The territorial expansion of the Delhi Sultanat (upto 1328)

  • During the previous 85 years since the establishment of the Delhi sultanat in 1206, successive sultans, far from undertaking any territorial expansion, were hard put to prevent the fragmentation of the sultanat itself, partly on account of the struggle for power at Delhi, partly on account of the attempts of individual Turkish amirs to carve out their own spheres of influence, the Mongol incursions, and the ceaseless efforts of dispossessed Hindu rajas to regain their territories.
  • However, with the rise to power of the Khaljis, and greater openness on the part of the sultanat in recruiting as officials, administrators, and soldiers, other elements in addition to Turks, i.e. Indian Muslims and Hindus, and internal restructuring of the administration, conditions were created for the rapid territorial expansion of the sultanat.
  • The expansion itself took place in several phases.
  1. In the first phase, the areas not far from Delhi, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Malwa were brought under the control of Delhi.
  2. In the second phase, the principalities in modern Maharashtra and the Deccan were raided, and compelled to accept Delhi’s vassalage. No attempt, however, was made during this phase to bring them under the direct control of the Delhi sultans.
  3. The third phase, which began during the last years of Alauddin’s reign, and climaxed during the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s reign (1320-24), saw the extention of central control over the entire Deccan. Bengal was also brought under control once again.
  • Thus, in a brief period of 30 years, the territorial limits of the Delhi sultanat had expanded to cover almost entire India.

(a) Gujarat:

  • Although the Turks had been trying to conquer Gujarat since the time of the Ghaznavids, their attacks had been frustrated by the Chalukyan rulers of Gujarat. Later, Muizzuddin M. Ghuri had launched an attack on Anhilwara, and occupied it, but could not hold it for long.
  • However, Gujarat was far too important because:
  1. a fertile and populous area
  2. centre for handicraft production, especially in the production of textiles
  3. chief port  Khambayat (Cambay), carried on a rich trade with West Asia, as also with countries of South-East Asia and China.
  4. Apart from Jains, Hindus and Bohras, Arab merchants had been settled in Khambayat for a long time. On account of its prosperity, gold and silver had been accumulated by the rulers, and was also lodged in its rich temples.
  5. Another reason for the rulers of Delhi to covet Gujarat was that with the domination of the Mongols over Central and West Asia, and their continuous attacks on India, the supply of horses from Central Asia and Iraq had been effected. Balban had to content himself largely with horses of Indian breed. Control over Gujarat could ensure a regular supply of Arabi, Iraqi and Turki horses which were needed by the army.(
  6. Thus, the Delhi sultans hardly needed any excuse to invade Gujarat. But such an excuse was provided when, the Chief Minister of the new ruler, Karan, invited Alauddin to invade Gujarat because Karan had forcefully seized his wife in his absence, and done other illegal acts.
  • In 1299, Alauddin deputed two of his leading generals, Ulugh Khan and Nusral Khan, to lead an expedition against Gujarat. Ulugh Khan, who marched from Sindh, attacked and plundered Jaisalmer on the way. The joint forces then marched to Gujarat across Chittor, despite opposition from the Rana. Reaching Guhilwara, they thoroughly sacked and plundered it. Rai Karan was taken by surprise, and fled to Deogir. All his women and treasures, including the beautiful chief queen, Kamla Devi, were captured by the Turks. She was taken to Delhi where Alauddin took her into his haram.
  • Many of the other leading towns of Gujarat, including Surat, and many monastries and temples including Somnath which had been rebuilt, were thoroughly plundered. At Khambayat, neither Hindus nor Muslim merchants were spared. It was here that the slave, Malik Kafur, who later played a prominent part in the Deccan campaigns, and who was called hazar-dinari, i.e. bought for 1000 gold dinars, was taken by force from a Muslim merchant.
  • There seems to have been no serious resistance anywhere to the Turks because Karan had just succeeded and set up a new dynasty, the last ruler having died issue less. After fleeing from his capital, Karan kept control over Baglana in South Gujarat where the Turks did not disturb him for some time. The rest of Gujarat passed under Turkish control, and a Turkish governor was appointed to administer it.

(b) Rajasthan

  • Although Ajmer had been under the control of the Turks since the time of Muizzuddin M. Ghuri, as also Nagaur and Mador, the sultans had not been able to extend their control over Rajasthan beyond these places, efforts at bringing under their control Ranthambhor, the most powerful fort in Rajasthan, having succeeded only for a brief time. Jalaluddin Khalji had invested Ranthambhor, but had to return unsuccessful, realizing the strength of the fort and the Rana’s determination to resist.
  • After bringing Gujarat under his rule, it was necessary for Alauddin to bring Rajasthan as also Malwa under his control in order to secure his communications with Gujarat.
  • As it was, the ruler of Mewar had opposed the movement of Turkish armies across his dominions to Gujarat. The ruler of Jalor had also refused entry to the Turkish army.
  • Finally, on the way back from Gujarat, the Mongols, called neo-Muslims, had risen in rebellion over the question of distribution of spoils gained in Gujarat between them and the Sultan. Although the rebellion had been suppressed, two Mongol officers along with their followers had sought shelter at Ranthambhor. The ruler, Hammir Deva, a direct descent of Prithvi Raj Chauhan, had refused to surrender the fugitives, deeming it as a matter of honour, and proud of the strength of his fort.
  • Hence, in 1301, Alauddin ordered Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan, the conquerors of Gujarat, to proceed against Ranthambhor. While investing the fort, Nusrat Khan went too near while directing operations, and was killed. Taking advantage of confusion in the Turkish camp, the Rana came out of the fort, defeated Ulugh Khan in battle and forced him to retreat to Jhain, which was 12 miles away and had been the Rana’s capital before he took refuge at Ranthambhor.
  • In this situation, it became necessary for Alauddin to proceed to Ranthambhor personally. Reaching Ranthambhor, he closely invested the fort. After the siege had lasted almost for months, there was acute shortage of food and water inside the fort. Hence the Rajputs performed the fearful jauhar ceremony: all the women entered the funeral pyre, and the men came out to die fighting. In this battle, the Mongols fought and died side by side with the Rajputs. The poet, Amir Khusrau, who had accompanied Alauddin, describes the fort, and refers to jauhar in one of his well-known poetical works.
  • After the conquest of Ranthambhor came the turn of Chittor which was also reputed to be one of the strongest forts of Rajasthan. Although Chittor had for long been a bone of contention between its Guhil rulers and the Chalukayas of Gujarat, it was at the time under the control of the Guhilot ruler, Ratan Singh, who had just succeeded his father. The poet Khusrau, who had accompanied Alauddin, describes the siege in detail, and says that after it had lasted for six months, Ratan Singh came out and surrendered. He was well treated, but 30,000 peasants who had taken refuge in the fort were slaughtered. Khusrau makes no mention of jauhar at Chittor.
  • Khusrau’s account is supported by all the contemporaries. None of them mention the legend of Padmini which is mentioned for the first time in a literary work in the first quarter of the 15th century. It was embellished with various fanciful stories and adventures by Malik Muhammad Jaisi, a hundred years later. It has been rejected by most modern historians.
  • After its conquest, the governorship of the fort of Chittor was given to Khizr Khan, the son of Alauddin.
  • After the conquest of Chittor, most of the rajas in Rajasthan, including those of Marwar and Harauti (Bundi) submitted. As it was, Mador in Marwar had been under Turkish occupation. Jaisalmer had been subdued earlier during the Gujarat campaign.
  • Siwana and Jalor, adjacent to Gujarat, both of which were strongly fortified, put up stout resistance, but were occupied and plundered in 1308 and 1311.
  • Thus, in a period of about 10 years, entire Rajasthan had been brought under Turkish domination.
  • However, except keeping hold of Ajmer, and of some of the powerful forts, such as Ranthambhor and Chittor, no attempt was made by Alauddin to establish direct rule over any of the Rajput states. In fact, he apparently tried to establish cordial relations with some of the Rajput rajas. Thus, according to tradition, Maldeo, brother of the ruler of Jalor, served Alauddin loyally with a force of 5000 horses, and that around 1313, Alauddin made him governor of Chittor in place of Khizr Khan.
  • This policy of not interfering with local administration, and befriending the Rajput rulers was later extended by Alauddin with great advantage to Deogir and to some of the other Deccan rulers.
  • Thus, Alauddin was the first ruler in the Delhi sultanat to put forward in a rudimentary form a Rajput policy based on recognition of mutual interests.

(c) Malwa

  • After the conquest of Chittor, Alauddin gave his attention to Malwa which was a rich and extensive tract with many populous cities. According to Amir Khusrau, it was so extensive that even wise geographers were unable to delimit its frontiers.
  • Although Malwa had been invaded both by Iltutmish and later by Alauddin during the rule of Jalaluddin, and great plunder had been obtained, little effort had been made to bring it under direct occupation. Its conquest by Alauddin was both to bring under control the route to Gujarat, as also to open the way to the south.
  • In 1305, Ainul Mulk Multani was deputed to conquer  Malwa. The Rai was pursued from Ujjain to Mandu where he had taken shelter, defeated, and killed. Unlike Rajasthan, entire Malwa was annexed, and Ainul Mulk was appointed its governor.
  • Thus, apart from Bengal which remained independent till the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-24), entire northern India came under the control of the sultans of Delhi. Orissa was also invaded and subdued during the reign of Ghiyasuddin, but was not annexed.

(d) Maharashtra and South India—first phase:

  • After successfully dealing with the Mongol invasions, and reorganizing his army and internal administration, Alauddin was prepared to undertake his most daring design, viz. raiding the Deccan states and making them subordinate to Delhi.
  • Maharashtra and south India were known to be lands of treasures and gold. Their famed handicrafts and flourishing ports had resulted in an influx of gold which had been hoarded by generations of rulers. The country was dotted with rich temples many of which were also engaged in inland and overseas trade, and money-lending. Thus, it was an area where both money and glory could be gained. At it turned out, the enterprise succeeded because the states in the area had been engaged in waging wars against each other completely oblivious of developments in north India, or that the developments there could pose any danger to them.


  • Alauddin’s first contact with Maharashtra had come about in 1296 when starting from Kara, and traversing the difficult country of Bundelkhand, he had suddenly appeared before Deogir, with a force of 8,000 horse, and defeated the Yadava king Ram Chandra, and then his son, Singhana. He had returned laden with wealth, and a promise on Ram Chandra’s part for the payment of an annual tribute.
  • After the conquest of Chittor and Malwa, Alauddin turned his attention towards Deogir once again. An excuse for invasion was found that Ram Chandra had stopped paying the annual tribute during the last two to three years due to the influence of his son, Singhana.
  • In 1308, two armies were despatched to Deogir, one to oust Karan, the former ruler of Gujarat, from Baglana in south Gujarat which he had managed to hold on to with the help of Ram Chandra. He was defeated after a stiff fight. The armies then joined Malik Kafur who had been deputed to punish Ram Chandra. The Yadava ruler offered only light resistance, and submitted to Kafur.
  • According to Amir Khusrau, Alauddin had ordered Malik Kafur not to injure the Rai and his family in any way. Hence, Ram Chandra or Ram Deo was honourably escorted to Delhi, Deogir remaining under the charge of his son, Singhana. He was kept at Delhi for six months, ostensibly as a guest. According to Khusrau, “everyday his status and honour increased.” He was then allowed to return to Deogir with his sons and family. At the time of his departure, Ram Deo was presented one lakh of gold tankas, given the title of Rai Rayan and a golden coloured canopy (chatr) which was the sign of royalty. Nausari, a district in Gujarat, was also allotted to him as a gift. It was perhaps at this time that Ram Deo gave his daughter, in marriage to Alauddin.
  • Earlier at Kamla Devi’s instance, Deval Devi, a daughter of Rani Kamla Devi was married to Khizr Khan, son and heir-apparent of Alauddin. Though Khizr Khan had a sad end, we can see in this a gradual expansion of Alauddin’s policy of building relations with Rajput rajas.

The Southern States

  • The most important states in south India at the time were the Kakatiyas of Warangal (modern Telingana); and the Hoysalas with their capital at Dvar Samudra (modern Helebid in Karnataka). Further to the south were the Pandyas of Mabar and Madurai (Tamilnadu). All these powers were engaged in constant wars with each other and with the Yadavas of Deogir in territorial disputes.
  • Having secured a base and a reliable ally at Deogir, between 1309 and 1311, Alauddin sent two expeditions under Malik Kafur to make the southern states disgorge their accumulated wealth, and compel them to accept Delhi’s suzerainty and pay an annual tribute.
  • Alauddin had no intention of annexing any of these states and bringing them under his direct administration, since he knew that the distances, and differing conditions would make such an attempt difficult and hazardous. According to Isami, who wrote at the same time as Barani, Alauddin had instructed Malik Kafur, while leading the first expedition of Warangal, that “if the rai of Telang accepted subordination, his kingdom should be returned to him, and honoured by being granted khilat (robes) and chatr (royal canopy).” Barani says that Alauddin’s instructions were: “If the rai gives up his treasures, elephants and horses, and promises a tribute for the future, accept the arrangement.” The same instructions must be assumed to have applied to the second expedition aimed at Dvar Samudra and Mabar.
  • The first expedition against Warangal in Telangana (1309-10) took six months. Marching through remote and little accessible routes, Kafur reached the fort of Warangal. It had an outside mud wall which was strong and an inside fort of stone. After a close siege, when the outer fort had been captured and the fall of the inner fort seemed inevitable, the Rai supplicated for peace, which was agreed to. The treasures surrendered were carried to Delhi. The Rai also agreed to pay an annual tribute.
Koh-i-noor diamond was extorted by Alauddin Khilji’s army in 1310, from a Hindu kingdom in Warangal
  • Embolded by this success, the following year, Malik Kafur was appointed with an army to invade Dvar Samudra and Mabar. Marching through remote routes as before, and with the help of guidance provided by the Maratha sardars of Ram Deo, Kafur surprised Ballal Deva, the Hoysala ruler, at Dvar Samudra. After a close siege Ballal Deva agreed to the same terms as the ruler of Warangal. He surrendered all his treasure, and agreed to pay an annual tribute.(
  • According to Isami, Ballal  Deva came to Delhi to wait on Alauddin, and was given 10 lakh tankas, a khilat and a chair, and the kingdom was returned to him.
  • Kafur then moved against Mabar (Coromandal). But it was not possible to bring to battle the two Pandyan brothers, who were at war with each other. Kafur reached Patan (Masulipatanam) where he found a colony of Muslim merchants. The city was thoroughly ravaged, and none were spared. Kafur devastated the temple of Chidambaram (near Madras) where he captured many elephants belonging to the Pandyan brothers. He also sacked Madurai. But he had to return without contacting the Pandyan brothers, or effecting any agreement with them.
  • These two expeditions not only brought immense wealth to Alauddin, it raised his prestige very high. Malik Kafur gained in public estimation by his skill, daring and success as a military leader. He rose even higher in the estimation of Alauddin who gave him the title of malik naib (regent or personal representative of the sovereign). But in the long run, it led to power going to Kafur’s head, and the consequent growth of an anti-Kafur lobby among the nobles which led to his subsequent downfall and death.
  • The immediate political benefits of the Deccan campaigns were limited. While Deogir remained a firm ally as long as Ram Deo lived, the arrangements with the other south Indian states remained brittle. The payment of an annual tribute promised by them could hardly be ensured without continuous pressure. Nor could the expeditions lead to greater trade till a greater degree of political stability had been attained. The expeditions, however, paved the way for the next step— annexation.

Maharashtra and the Southern States—Second Phase: Annexation:

  • Although Alauddin had made non-annexation a deliberate policy with regard to Maharashtra and the southern states, the situation developed in such a way that he had to modify this policy in his own life time.
  • In 1315, Ram Deo of Deogir died, and his son, Bhillama, repudiated allegiance to Alauddin. Alauddin sent Malik Kafur to punish Bhillama, with instructions to send him to Delhi, and to annex the kingdom. But Bhillama escaped. Kafur occupied the fort, and tried to govern the kingdom without displacing the old Maratha chiefs. He was successful only partially, many of the chiefs asserting their independence, while a part of the kingdom remained under the control of members of the old dynasty.
  • This change of policy on Alauddin’s part from non-annexation to annexation needs some explanation. Bhillama’s rebellion alone does not appear to be a sufficient cause. Apparently, Alauddin felt that direct Turkish control over Deogir was necessary for keeping the other southern states in line by exerting diplomatic and, if necessary, military pressure on them. Thus, it was a modification, not an abandonment of the policy of non-annexation in the south.
  • When Mubarak Khalji succeeded Alauddin, he marched on Deogir to bring it effectively under his control. He was able to do so without meeting much opposition. He also sent an expedition against Warangal where the Rai had not paid the annual tribute for several years. The outcome of the siege was the same as before: the Rai submitted when the outer fort had been captured. Finally, the Rai agreed to surrender one district, and payment of an annual tribute. This was a partial breach of the policy of non-annexation, but not its abandonment.
  • The abandonment of Alauddin’s policy of non-annexation in the south should really be attributed to Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq, and his son and successor, Muhammad bin Tughlaq. Immediately after his accession, Ghiyasuddin ordered his son, Ulugh Khan later known as Muhammad bin Tughlaq, to invade Warangal where the ruler, taking advantage of the confused situation at Delhi, had stopped paying tribute. An army was deputed from. After six months siege, the fort was about to fall when rumours of the king’s death at Delhi led to a confusion in Ulugh Khan’s camp. Taking advantage of the flight of some of the nobles, the Rai attacked and compelled Ulugh Khan to fall back on Deogir.
  • After the rumours of the king’s death had been successfully scotched, and with the help of a new army from Delhi, Ulugh Khan renewed the campaign against Warangal the following year. Rai was compelled to surrender, and sent to Delhi. But on the way he committed suicide.
  • The entire Telangana was now annexed. It was divided into nine districts, and officials were appointed to govern them, and a year’s land-revenue collected. The name of Warangal was changed to Sultanpur.
  • The conquest of Mabar followed the conquest of Telangana. Thus, Madurai, the capital of Mabar, was captured in 1323. The area had also been raided by Khusrau Khan, an officer of Mubarak Khalji. Thus, the Tamil area had been in a state of confusion. The expedition sent during the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq reinstalled a Muslim governor at Madurai and the entire Mabar area was brought under the control of Delhi.
  • Finally, in 1328, following a rebellion by Gurshasp, a cousin of Muhammad Tughlaq, who took refuge with the ruler of Kampil in south Karnataka, Muhammad bin Tughlaq sent an army, and the Karnataka was also annexed.(
  • Thus, in a brief space of twelve years, the entire south upto the borders of Malabar had been brought under the direct administration of Delhi. Only some areas, including Dvar Samudra, remained under the control of their own rulers.
  • Events soon proved that this was a hasty and ill-considered step. The rapid incorporation of such a vast area, so far away from Delhi and with a different administrative set up  and different socio-cultural outlook and traditions, strained the resources of the sultanat to the limit, and soon a process of its disintegration began.
  • Thus, the territorial expansion of the Delhi sultanat brought forward new opportunities, as also new challenges.

Q. Why we call “Khilji Revolution”?

  • The Khilji Revolution marked the overthrow of the Slave Dynasty and the establishment of the rule of the Khilji dynasty in the reign of Delhi Sultanate. It was not merely a change in the dynasty but the very nature of the state was poised for a revolution under the Khiljis.
  • The Khilji revolution was revolution in the sense that it heralded the end of the Turkish supremacy over rule in India. The Khiljis were not considered pure Turks and were considered to belong to an altogether different stock. The success of the Khiljis in establishing a dynasty was a success for non-Turks and to Indian Muslims.
  • It was also a revolution in the sense that it settled the fact that the state power was not the monopoly of particular group. The rule of the Tughlaqs furthered this process.
  • The Khiljis ushered in a revolution in the history of the Delhi Sultanate also by initiating an expansionist policy.
  • Further, the Khilji revolution was also ushered in by the new administrative measures that were introduced. Thus, there were the market regulations which fixed the prices of different commodities. Moreover, new administrative machinery comprising the Shahna, the Barids and the Munhias was set up to oversee the market regulations. Similarly, the land revenue administration was reorganized by introducing measurement, and touring up the machinery.
  • Moreover, the Khiljis proclaimed a concept of kingship of their own. Khiljis did not recognize any other power centre in the administration. They believed in the dictum that kingship provides for its own justification. Also, the Sultan need not act under the guidance of nobles or Ulemas. Thus, the Khiljis heralded a new era in various aspects of Sultanate and hence it is termed as Khilji revolution.


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