Categories Medieval India

Government and Administration under the Delhi Sultanate

Government and Administration under the Delhi Sultanate

  • Delhi Sultanate was shaped by its historical experience of being a part of the wider Islamic world and it changed and evolved as a result of its needs and circumstances.
  • They had to control the resources of the country because (Both had important bearing on the nature of the Turkish State):
    • Turks were far fewer in number than the indigenous population over whom they sought to govern and
    • They lacked resources.
  • Influence:
    • The machinery of administration as it evolved under the Delhi sultanat was derived from the Abbasid and following it, the Ghaznavid and the Seljukid systems of administration.
    • It was also influenced by the Iranian system of administration, and the situation in India and Indian traditions. Both West Asia, including Iran, and India had a long tradition of rule by a monarch assisted by a council of ministers.
    • Hence, we find that some of the departments of government, or even officers, were old institutions under a new name.
  • However, the Turks were also able to evolve a number of new institutions and concepts which provided a basis for centralization of power and authority of a type which had not existed in India earlier.

THE NATURE OF THE DELHI SULTANATE STATE

Historians have given different interpretations for explaining the nature of the Delhi Sultanate.

Theocratic state

  • Historians like Aarti Tripathi, Ishwari Prasad, A.L. Shrivastava presents this view.
    • The basis of this view:
      • Shariyat based rule
      • Islam as a state religion
      • Influence of Ulemas
      • Sultans’ allegiance to Caliph
      • Jaziya on non-Muslims
      • destruction of temples
      • Muslims as privileged class known as Millets and non-Muslims had subordinated status known as Zimmis.
  • There are historians like Md. Habib, I.H. Qureshi etc. who put a question mark on this view on the basis that:
    • The shariyat was not the core basis of rule and Ulemas were not a dominant element in overall political system.
  • Most accepted view:
    • Historians like Satish Chandra have presented a comprehensive analysis of this view and their conclusion is that in theory or in principle, the sultanate was an Islamic state but in practice it show several deviations:
      • The basis of rule was more political consideration than religious consideration.
      • Wars were not religious wars rather politico-military in nature.
      • Sultans were Muslims but they did not act as a missionaries.
      • Ulemas were not important entity in the political system and many a times views of Ulemas were negated like by Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad Bin Tughluq.
      • Several practices and customs adopted which were unislamic like Shijda and Pabos introduced by Balban.
      • There was no policy of conversion and Hindus in general enjoyed freedom.
      • Destruction of temples was more in the situation of political hostility i.e. more a political issue than religious.
      • Sultans were sovereign in their own right and relation with Caliph was just a formal link.
      • As per Barani’s observation, Delhi Sultanate was placed under the category of Duniyadari.
    • In a theoretical and formal sense, the Delhi Sultans recognized the supremacy of the Islamic law (shariah) and tried to prevent its open violation. But they had to supplement it by framing secular regulations (zawabit), too.
    • Needs of the emergent State shaped many policies and practices not always consistent with islamic fundamentalismA point of view is that the Turkish State was a theocracy but in practice, it was the product of expediency and necessity wherein the needs of the young state assumed paramount importance.
      • Ziauddin Barani distinguished betwen jahandari (“secular”) and dindari(“religious”) and accepted the inevitability of some secular features.
        • For example : a sectarian group (shafai) of Muslim divines approached Illtutmish and asked him to enforce the Islamic law strictly, that is, giving the Hindus the option of Islam or Death. On behalf of the Sultan, the wazir; ‘Junaidi, replied that this could not be done for the moment as the Muslims were like salt in a’dish of food.
        • Barani tells: the Qazi (Mughisuddin) pointed out the legalistic position which prevented the Sultan from taking the major share of the booty, the Sultanemphasized that he acted according to the needs of the State which were paramount.
  • Hence, in practice, the Turkish State was not theocratic but evolved according to its special needs and circumstances despite the fact that the main ruling class professed Islam.

War state

  • War was a regular feature in order to sustain, expand.
  • So military preparation was always important.
  • In medieval time, states in general were military and war state as medieval situation was characterised by conflicts. So military might and wars were important to sustain and survive.

Military state

  • There was no popular base and state rested exclusively on the forces of arms.
  • There were separate military departments.
  • There was military orientation of the policies e.g. market control of Alauddin Khalji for military purpose.
  • Absence of the rule of primogeniture so military might played important role in succession.

Conquest state

  • Sultanate was a institutionalised form of foreign conquest.
  • Foreign conquest represent conquest by TUrks, under the leadership of Md. Ghuri.
  • As per Satish Chandra:
    • 13th century may be of foreign conquest but in 14th century, rulers became indigenous in political, economic, social and cultural aspects.

Despotic state

  • Rule of Sultanate was marked by despotism and the will of Sultan was supreme.
  • However there were checks on the despotism of Sultans by religion, nobility and slaves.
  • According to barani, despotism was un-islamic and religion was check on despotism.
  • The reign of few Sultans had elements of benevolent despotism like Jalaluddin Khalji, Ghiasuddin Tughluq, Firuz Shah Tughluq.

Centralised state

  • It was given by historians like Md. habib, Ishwari Prasad etc.
  • State system was marked by centralised systems, like central departments, political-administrative units under Muqtis, who were controlled by Sultan.
  • Iqta was a main instrument of centralisation.
  • But in certain regimes, trends of decentralisation is also visible. For e.g. during the rule of weak Sultan especially Firuz Shah Tughluq.

Monarchical state

  • The head of state and government was a monarch.
  • The office of king was all powerful and all other were subservient to it.
  • The king was the head of justice, commander-in-chief and supreme legislator.

Patrimonial state

  • View by Max Webber (German sociologist).
  • As per this view, Sultanate state was household dominated, patrimonial, bureaucratic state system.
  • Rulers were dependent upon small number of trained and loyal officials who were involved in specialised function.
  • It was rule by a household.

Confederate kind of union/ confederacy

  • This character developed under the rule of Bahlol Lodi.
  • This was based on Afghan concept of political system, characterised by partnership in the power i.e. power shared by Afghan chiefs. (shared sovereignty)

Hence, there were many interpretations of the nature of Sultanate state, each with some shortcomings and it is difficult to bind its nature in any particular interpretation. As per Harman Kulke:

  • Initially Delhi Sultanate was a conquest state.
  • After Alauddin Khalji, serious attempt at centralisation of administration was made.
  • But Delhi Sultanate was structurally weak thus it remained in essence a largely patrimonial system.

CENTRAL ADMINISTRATION 

The central administrative machinery of the Sultanate consisted of the nobles controlling various offices with the Sultan at the helm of affairs.

The Sultan:

  • Could make civil and political regulations for public welfare.Khutba and sikka were recognised as important attributes of sovereignty.
    • khutba was the formal sermon following the congregational prayer on Fridays wherein the name of the Sultan was mentioned as the head of the community.
    • Coinage was the ruler’s prerogative : his name was inscribed on the coins (sikka)
  • Barani says that Balban stressed the special position of the Sultan as ‘shadow of God’ (zill al Allah) on earth. Balban emphasized courtly splendour decorum and etiquette. He also believed in severe exemplary punishments even to the nobles.
  • many of Nobles, felt that they had an equal right to rule.

The Wizarat (Finance) : the head of the diwan-i wizarat,

  • Was the most important figure in the central administration.
  • Though he was one of the four important departmental heads, he exercised a general supervisory authority over others.
  • The wizarat organised the collection of revenue, exercised control over expenditure, kept accounts, disbursed salaries and allotted revenue assignments (iqta) at Sultan’s order.
  • There were several officials who helped the wizaraf such as
    • mushif-i mumalik (accountant-general) and
    • mustaufi-i mumalik (auditor-general).
  • During the reign of Alauddin Khalji, the diwan-i mustakhraj was made responsible for the collection of arrears of revenue.

The Diwan-i Arz : i.e military department was headed by the ariz-i mumalik.

  • responsible for the administration of military affairs.
  • He inspected the troops maintained by the iqta-holders.
  • He also supervised the commissariat duties (supply and transport) of the Sultan’s army.
  • During the reign of Alauddin Khalji, some measures were introduced to maintain a check on recruitment and quality. He ordered a descriptive roll (huliya) of every soldier to be kept and also ordered the branding (dagh) of horses to be done so that horses of poor quality were not brought by the amirs or iqta-holders to the muster.
    • It seems that the branding of horses was strictly maintained till the reign of Muhammad Tughluq.
  • The army consisted of troops maintained by nobles as well as the standing army (hashm-i-qalb) of the Sultan.
  • In the thirteenth century, the royal cavalry, in lieu of cash salary, was assigned the revenue of small villages in the vicinity of Delhi which Moreland calls “small iqta“.
    • Under Iltutmish, the number of such cavalry was about three thousand. Balban tried to do away with these assignments which led to much dissatisfaction.
    • Alauddin Khalji was successful in doing so, and he started paying his soldiers in cash-a trooper was paid 238 tanka while one who brought an additional horse used to get 78 tanka’ more.
  • Feroz Tughluq  gave up the practice of paying his royal soldiers in cash: instead, he gave them a paper called itlaq – a sort of draft on whose strength they could claim their salary from the Sultan’s revenue officers of the khalisa (“Crown” or “reserve” land).

Other Departments :

  • diwan-i insha : looked after State correspondence.
    • It was headed by dahir-i mumalik.
    • This department dealt with all correspondence between the Sultan and other rulers, and between the Sultan and provincial governments.
    • It issued farmans and received letters from subordinate officials.
  • barid-i mumalik :  the head of the State news-agency
    • He had to keep information of all that was happening in the Sultanate.
    • The administrative sub- divisions had local barids who sent regular news —letters to the central office.
    • The barids reported matters of state – wars, rebellions, local affairs, finances, the state of agriculture etc.
    • Spies or barids were appointed to different parts of the empire. It was their business to keep the sultan informed of all the developments.
    • This was the main weapon used by Balban and Alauddin Khalji to control and demoralise the nobles.
    • Apart from the barids, another set of reporters existed who were known as munhiyan.
  • diwan-i risalat : He was the highest religious officer.
    • headed by the sadr-us sudur.
    • He took care of the ecclesiastical affairs and appointed qazi.
    • He approved various grants like waqf for religious and educational institutions. wazifa and idrar to the learned and the poor.
  • judiciary :The Sultan headed the judiciary and was the final court of appeal in both civil and criminal matters.
    • Next to him was the qazi-ul mumalik (or qazi-ul quzzat), the chief judge of the Sultanate.
    • Often, the offices of the sadr-us sudur and qazi-ul mumalik were held by the same person.
    • The chief qazi headed the legal system and heard appeals from the lower courts.
  • The muhatsibs (public censors) assisted the judicial department. Their task was to see that there was no public infringement of the tenets of Islam.

Court and the Royal Household:

  • In a situation where the sultan was the centre of power, the organisation of the court and of the royal household became matters of prime importance.
    • However, unlike the Mughals, there was no single officer in charge of the court and the royal household during the Sultanat.
  • Wakil-i-dar:
    • The most important officer concerned with the royal household was the wakil-i-dar.
    • He controlled the entire royal household and supervised the payment of allowances and salaries to the sovereign’s personal staff which included the royal kitchen, the wine department and the royal stables.
    • He was even responsible for the education of the princes.
    • The courtiers, the princes, the sultan’s private servants, even the queens had to approach him for various favours.
    • As such, the post was of great importance and sensitivity, and was bestowed only to a noble of high rank and prestige.
  • Amir Hajib:
    • Another officer of high importance connected with the court and the royal household was the Amir Hajib.
    • He was also called barbek.
    • He was master of ceremonies at the court.
    • He marshalled the nobles in accordance with their ranks and precedence.
    • All petitions to the Sultan were presented through him, or his subordinates, called hajibs.
    • The post was so sensitive that sometimes princes of blood were appointed to it.
  • There were many minor officials such as the head of the hunt, the officer in charge of royal parties (majlis) etc. Two departments which may be noted is:
    • Karkhana or royal stores and
    • Public Works department.
  • From the time of Alauddin Khalji, great importance was given to the department of public works or diwan-i-amirat. But the prince of builders was Firuz Tughlaq who not only repaired many old buildings, including sarais, mausoleums etc. but dug canals, and built many new towns. A separate department, therefore, was set up under Malik Ghazi who was called Mir-i-Imarat.

Karkhanas: The needs of the royal household were met through karkhanas.

  • Of two types broadly:
    • (i) Manufacturies
    • (ii) Store house.
  • Even the royal library (kitabikhana) was considered as karkhana.
  • The Karkhanas were responsible for the storing and manufacture of all the articles required by the Sultan and the royal household.
    • This included food and fodder, lamps and oil, clothes, furniture, tents etc.
  • Firuz Tughlaq gave great importance to the karkhanas, and many slaves were trained to become good artisans in these departments.
    • Under Firuz Tughluq there were 36 karkhanas.
  • Muhammad Tughluq had employed about five hundred workers in gold brocade and four thousand weavers to manufacture cloth required by the court and for making robes of honour to be given in gift to the favoured ones.
    • Robes of silk and wool which were distributed to the nobles twice a year by Muhammad bin Tughlaq were manufactured in the royal karkhanas.
  • Each karkhana was supervised by a noble who had the rank of a malik or khan, and a mutasarrif who was responsible for the accounts and acted as the immediate supervisor.
  • A separate diwan or accounts office existed for the karkhanas.
  • The karkhanas manufactured articles for Imperial household as well as for military purposes.
  • It must be remembered, however, that articles produced in the royal karkhanas were not commodities, i.e. not for sale in the market. Nobles, too, maintained their own karkhanas.

Slaves : Slaves were an important feature of the royal household.

  • Alauddin Khalji owned 50,000 slaves, while Feroz Tughluq is reputed to have had 1.80.000 slaves. During Feroz reign, a separate department of slaves (diwan-i bandagan) was set up.
  • The slaves were used for personal service and acted as body-guards (the latter numbering’ 40,000).
  • Afif also records that a large number of Feroz’s slaves (12,000) worked as artisans (kasibs).
  • Barani describes a large slave market at Delhi,
  • but by the first quarter of the 16th century there is no mention of slave markets.

REVENUE ADMINISTRATION

  • Revenue system and exact magnitude of the revenue-demand during llbarite (slave dynasty) rule is uncertain.Perhaps the old agrarian system continued to function with the difference that the composition of the supreme appropriators of the surplus produce at the centre had changed.
  • some reconstruction can be made by projecting back the account of Barani about the situation prevailing in this respect under Sultan Alauddin Khalji’s early rule.
    • Three groups of rural istocracy- khot. muqaddam, and chaudhuri -who collected land revenue (kharaj) from the peasants on behalf of the state. and deposited the same with the officials of the diwan-i wizarat.
      • For this service, the were allowed perquisites (haqq-i khoti) as remuneration by the state which consisted of being exempted from the revenue of a portion of land (i.e not all the land they held was exempted) held by them.
      • Also. they took something from the peasants as their share of the produce which Barani calls qismat-i khoti.
  • Choudhari, might not have directly involved in collection of the revenue because (acording to Ibn Battuta) he was head of “100 villages” (pargana) : this inference is reinforced. by the fact that Barani always employs terms ‘like haqq-i khoti or muqaddami, but never haqq-i chaudhrai.
  • W.H. Moreland, however, uses the term intermediaries for all the three groups.
  • Besides land revenue (kharaj), every cultivator had to pay house tax (ghari) and cattle or grazing tax (charaj). 
  • What motivated Alauddin Khalji in introducing stern measures? : 
    • Has been explained by Barani : The intermediaries had become intractable– always in readiness for rebellion. And the Sultan levelled the following main charges against them:
      • They did not pay the revenue themselves on that portion of their land which was not exempted from assessment; rather they shifted their ‘burden’ onto the peasantry, that is, they realised additional levy from the peasants besides the fixed demand of the state in order to pay their own dues.
      • They did not pay the grazing tax.
  • The ill-gotten ‘excess of wealth’ had made them so arrogant that they flouted the orders of the revenue officials by not going to the revenue office even when summoned to render accounts.
  • As a result, the Sultan had to strike at their resources for economic and political reasons. The measures taken by him were as follows:
    • The magnitude of the state demand was set at half the produce of the land. The land was’to be measured (masahat), and the land revenue fixed on the yield of each unit of the area. The term used wafa-i biswa (wafa = yield; biswa = 1/20th of a bigha). Most probably, it was levied separately on the holding of each individual cultivator.
    • The intermediaries and the peasants alike were to pay the same standard of the demand (50%) without any distinction, be they intermediaries or ‘ordinary peasant’ (balahar).
  • The perquisites of intermediaries were disallowed.
  • The grazing and the house tax were to be taken from the intermediaries’also.
  • One objective was : To free the peasants from the illegal exactions of the intermediaries. as Barani says : the sultan’s policy was’that the ‘burden’ (bar) of the ‘strong’ (aqwiya) should not fall on the ‘weak’ (zuaja).
  • Problems Created : 50% demand was the highest in the agrarian history of India.
    • Though the peasants were protected now from the economic oppression of the intermediaries, the former had to pay a higher rate of taxation than they did earlier.
    • Since the rate was uniform in a sense it was a regressive taxation.
  • Thus the state gained at the cost of the intermediaries, leaving the peasants in the lurch.
  • It is ‘true that the intermediaries were eliminated from-direct revenue collection. but they‘were still expected to maintain law and order in the countryside and help the revenue officials without any remuneration or perquisites.
  • The state’s direct relations with the peasants resulted in an expansion of revenue officials called variously ‘ummal, mutasarrif, mushrif, muhassilan, navisindagan, etc. Soon, large scale corruption and  embezzlements surfaced among the revenue officials for which they were ruthlessly punished by the naib wazir, Sharaf Qaini: about 8 to 10 thousand officials were imprisoned.
    • The process for discovering the deceit was simple: the bahi or the ledger of the village patwari was meticulously scrutinised by the auditors. The ‘bahi contained every payment, legal or illegal, made to the revenue collectors, and these payinents were then compared with the receipts. Corruption occurred in spite of the fact that Alauddin Khalji had raised the salary of the revenue collectors.
  • Ziauddin Barani’s account of the oppression of the peasantry during Alauddin Khaljl’s reign :
    • Such peasants as were weak and without resources were completely made prostrate, and the rich peasants who had resources and means, turned rebels. Whole regions were devastated.
    • Cultivation was totally abandoned. The peasants of distant regions, hearing of the ruin and destruction of the peasantry of the Doab, fearful that the same orders might be issued for them as for the latter, turned away from obedience and fled to the jungles.
    • The two years that the Sultan was in Delhi (c. 1332-4), the country of the Doab,owing to the rigours of revenue-demand and the multiplicity of abwab (additional cesses), was devastated.
    • The Hindus set fire to the grain heaps and burnt . and drove away cattle from their homes. The Sultan ordered the shiqqdars and faujdars (revenue collectors and commanders) to lay waste and plunder the country. They killed many khots and muqaddams, and many they blinded.
    • Those who  escaped gathered bands and fled into jungles; and the country became ruined. The Sultan in those times went to the district of Baran (modern Bulandshahr), on a hunting expedition; he ordered that the entire district of Baran be plundered and laid waste.
    • The Sultan himself plundered and laid waste from kanauj to Dalmau. Whoever was captured was killed.
    • Most (peasants) ran away and fled into the jungles. They (the Sultan’s troops) surrounded the jungles and killed every one whom they found within the jungles.
  • Barani gives an indication of the extent of the area where these measures were operative :
    • covering the heart of his empire. But Bihar, Awadh, Gujarat and parts of Malwa and Rajputana are not mentioned. These measures were largely meant for the khalisa (“crown” or “reserve” land).
  • mode of payment (In kind was prefered by Alaunddin):
    • Moreland thinks that ordinarily payment in cash was the general practice during the 13th century.And become quite widely prevalent by the 14th century.
    • However, Alauddin himself preferred collection in grain. He decreed that the whole revenue due from the khalisa in the Doab should be realized in kind, and only half the revenue due from Delhi (and its suburbs) in cash.
    • reason for his preference :
      • To have a large reserve of grain stored at Delhi and other areas for contingencies (such as scarcity owing to drought or other factors).
      • To utilize the storage as a lever for his price-fixation measures in the grain market.
    • Ghiyasuddin Tughluq: Introduced two important change :
      • The intermediaries got back their haqq-i khoti (but not qismat-i khoti). They were also exempted from the house and cattle tax.
      • The procedure of measurement (masahat) was to continue along with observation or “actual yield” (bar hukm hasil).
    • Muhammad Tughluq : There are two views (Both these views are incorrect):
        • (i) He enhanced the rate of land tax beyond 50%.
        • (ii) After the death of Alauddin Khalji, the rate was reduced by the Khalji rulers which was later raised to the previous level by Muhammad Tughluq.
      • But the rate fixed by Alauddin was never sought to be tampered. what he actually did to :
      • To impose new cesses (abwab) as well as revive the older ones (for example, charai and ghari on the intermediaries).
      • Measurement alone was retained for assessment purpose. The matter aggravated when assessment in kind (grain) was carried out not on the principle of the “actual yield” but on the officially decreed yields (wafa-i farmani) for each unit of the measured area.
      • For payment in cash, commutation was not done according to the market prices but on the basis of the rates as “ordered by the Sultan” (nirkh-i jarmani).
      • Barani says :  All these taxes and cesses were to be realized rigorously. The area covered under these regulations was the khalisa land in the Doab. The result :
        • An unprecedented rebellion of the peasants, led by the intermediaries, occurred which led to bloody confrontations.
      • In case of bad harvest, the state tried to adjust the land tax, and also gave agricultural loans to the peasants called sondhar in Muhammad Tughluq’s reign.
    • Feroz Shah:
      • abolished twenty three cesses including charai and ghari.
      • water tax‘ (haqq- i sharb) was taken from those cultivators who irrigated their land from the water supplied from the canals constructed by the state.
    • Another development that took place, especially under the Tughluqs, was the practice of revenue-farming, that is, the task of collecting the revenue of some areas was sometimes given to contractors who perhaps gave a lump sum in advance for the right of revenue collection for a certain period.
    • What was the total estimated revenue during any period of the Delhi Sultanate?:
      • No such attempt seems to have been made before the reign of Sultan Feroz Shah Tughluq.
      • Afif (Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi by Shams-i-Siraj Afif, Tarikh-i-Firuzshai was written by Ziauddin Barani) tells us that at the order of Feroz shah, Khwaja Hisamuddin Junaid determined the jama (estimated revenue) of the kingdom according to the “rule of inspection” (bar hukm mushahada).
      • It took six years to do this job, and the figure arrived at was six krar and seventy-five lakhs tanka. which continued to bf valid for the entire reign of the Sultan.

IQTA SYSTEM AND PROVINCIAL ADMINISTRATION

Iqta System

  • The iqta was a territorial assignment given to administrative officers and nobles in lieu of the services they performed for the state. The system began as division of conquest & resources, a reward and a medium of payment.
  • Gradually the system was defined and responsibilities of the holders clearly marked and it became a principal system of state.
  • In order to consolidate, the Turkish rulers made revenue assignments (iqta), in lieu of cash,to their nobles (umma). The assignees (known as muqti/ wali) collected revenue from these areas, defrayed their own expenses, paid the troops maintained by them and sent the surplus (fawazil) to the centre.
  • The assignments could be large (a whole province or a part). Assignments even to nobles carried administrative, military and revenue collecting

Features of iqta

  • There were big & small iqtas. The holder of a big lqta was known as Muqti or Wali and of a small lqta as iqtadar
  • The muqti was responsible for the collection of revenue from these territories and also worked as administrative head.
  • They were supposed to retain the revenue equivalent to their personal pay as well as the salaries of troops employed by them.
  • The grant of iqta did not imply a right to the land nor was it hereditary though the holders of jqta tended to acquire hereditary rights during Feroz Tughluq.
  • These revenue assignments were transferable, the iqta-holder being transferred from one region to another every three or four years.
    • Therefore, iqta should not be equated with the fief of medieval feudal Europe, which were hereditary and non-transferable
  • The tithe land could not be given to anyone as iqta except on the grounds at poverty.
  • Muqti had other specific responsibilities -(a) Maintenance of law & order, (b) Maintenance of troops. But the iqtadar had no such responsibility except the service he was supposed to provide to state.
  • Muqti separated a part of total revenue collected for the purpose of his personal expenditure and expenditure of troops, and the balance known as Fawazil was to be deposited with state.
  • Muqti appointed Naib Ariz to represent him at centre.
  • It was not a feudal but a bureaucratic system – it was subject to pleasure of sultan, transfer, removal, punishment. audit and control & regulation from top.
  • Thus, provincial administration was headed by the muqti or wali. He had to maintain an army composed of horsemen and foot soldiers.
  • A passage from Nizamul Mulk Tusi‘s Siyasatnama on the rights of muqti :
    • They (the muqtis) should know that their right over the subjects is only to take the rightful amount of money or perquisite (mal-i haqq) in a peaceful manner… the life, property and the family of the subject should be immune from any harm, the muqtis have no right over them, if the subject desires to make a direct appeal to the Sultan, the muqti should not prevent him. Every muqti who violates there laws should be dismissed and punished … the muqtis and walis are so many superintendents over them as the king is superintendent over other muqtis… After three or four years, the amil and the muqtis should be transferred so that they may not be too strong”

Significance

  • A major pillar of state system of the sultanate.
  • An instrument of centralisation.
  • An instrument of organisation of nobility & military chiefs – they were associated with state, their responsibilities were defined.
  • Served as the system of provincial governance as Muqti / Wali served somewhat as provincial governors.
  • A mode of payment.
  • A system for revenue collection.
  • Provided a revenue base – Fawazil was the right of state.
  • A system of maintaining troops.
  • It provided the basis for system of granting land for various purposes during subsequent rule. The system provided a background for Jagir system during the Mughal period.

Changes in Iqta system during the Sultanate period

Balban

  • Enquiry into old lqta.
  • Appointment of Khwaja attached to Muqti in order to maintain accounts.
  • Emphasis on recovery of Fawazil.

Alauddin Khilji

  • Emphasis on recovery of Fawazil.
  • Greater control of wizarat over lqta.
  • Abolition of iqta and other rent free grants in Doab.

Ghiasuddin Tughlaq

  • Moderate Policy.
  • Demand on the basis of hasil that .is actual produce not on the basis of past records.
  • Income of the Muqti not to be increased more than by 1/16th or 1/11th annually.

Md. Bin Tughlaq

  • Separation of expenditure of troops and personal expenditure of Muqti.
  • Troops to be paid by state.
  • lqta for personal salary only.

Firoz Shah Tughlaq

  • New Jama (first time used) fixed at 6 crore and 75 lakhs tankas.
  • lqta was given in perpetuity.
  • Increased personal pay of Muqti.
  • Iqta was made hereditary.
    • In the event of the death of the Muqti, lqta was to be passed on to sons, in their absence to Sons-in-law to slaves to widows.
  • Payment to soldiers through Barat or ltalaq (a kind of draft).
  • A new arrangement, Wajh which means revenue of village was introduced. It was given in lieu of cash salary.
  • Changes introduced by Firoz Tughtaq and afterwards gave birth to unhealthy trends. These changes weakened the system as tool for centratisation, organisation of nobility etc.

Sikandar Lodi

  • New term Sarkar and Paragana for lqta.
  • Stopped claims over Fawazil.
  • Beginning of sub-assignment of portions of sarkar by principal assignees.

In this way, nature of Iqta changed with different Sultan.

Provincial Administration :

  • As the central control grew, the control over the muqti’s administration also increased.
    • The naib diwan (also called khwaja) in charge of revenue administration began to be appointed from the centre.
    • A barid or intelligence officer was also posted to keep the sultan informed. But it seems that the muqti appointed his own troops, keeping a naib ariz at the centre to represent him.
  • Appeals from the qazis, and against the conduct of the governors could be made to the sultan. The governor could, however, give revenue-free lands to scholars out of his iqta.
  • Under Muhammad bin Tughlaq, we hear of a number of persons who were appointed governors on revenue-farming terms.
    • This attempt to maximise the income was a step back for it implied elimination of central control over revenue affairs.
    • But such persons were not required to maintain troops for the service of the centre, these being placed under a separate officer.
    • This duality of functions did not work and was apparently given up by Firuz.
  • According to Barani, there were 20 provinces in the Sultanat when it did not include the south.
    • As compared to the provinces (subahs) of Akbar’s time, these were smaller.
    • Thus, out of the modern U.P., the middle doab was divided between Meerut, Baran (now Bulandshahr) and Koil (now Aligarh), and another three were in the north-west.
  • Provinces in the Mughal sense really began under Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
    • Under him, the number of provinces covering the entire country upto Malabar according to an Arab writer, Shihabuddin al Umar, was twenty-four.

As the State became more settled and efforts were made for greater centralization, provincial administration also underwent a change. A separation between fiscal and military responsibilities started evolving. :

  • During the reign of Muhammad Tughluq, fiscal responsibilities were partially withdrawn from the muqtis or walis and placed under central officers.
    • According to Ibn Battuta, the iqta of Amroha was placed. under two central officers, one called amir (possibly in charge of the army and administration) and the other as wali-ul kharaj (in charge of revenue collection).
    • Muhammad Tughluq also ordered that the salary of the soldiers maintained by iqta-holders be paid by the diwan-i wizarat to prevent fraud by the officers.
  • Greater control over fiscal matters of province by diwan‘s office at centre :
    • Received and examined detailed statements regarding income and expenditure in the provinces.
    • It supervised the work of the revenue officials in the provinces.
    • The provinces had a sahib-i diwan, whose office kept books of account and submitted information to the centre.
      • It was assisted by officials like mutasarrifs. The entire lower revenue staff was called karkun.

Local administration:

  • We do not know whether there were any units equivalent to the modern district or division below the  provinces.
    • We hear of shiqs and sarkars in the Afghan histories dealing with the Lodis and the Surs.
  • shiqs :End of the thirteenth century. contemporary sources refer to this as an administrative division.
    • adequate information about the exact nature is not known.
    • by the time of Sher Shah (1540-1 545 A.D.) shiqq had emerged as a well-defined administrative unit, known as sarkar.
    • Administrative officials, mentioned with respect to shiqq, were shiqqdar and faujdar.
    • The demarcation of their duties is not very clear.
  • We hear of parganas, sadis (unit of 100), and chaurasis (unit of 84).
    • Thesadis and chaurasis were collections of villages.
    • The number of villages could vary.
    • Perhaps, a chaudhari who was a hereditary land-holder, and an amil or revenue collector were posted there, especially if the area was under khalisa.
    • According to Ibn Battuta, chaudhuri was the head of hundred villages. This was the nucleus of the administrative unit later called pargana.
  • The village was the smallest unit of administration. The functioning and administration of the village remained basically the same as it had existed in pre-Turkish times.
    • The main village functionaries were khut, muqaddam (headman) and patwari.
    • Khut was the zamindar of one or more villages, while muqaddam was the village headman.
    • The patwari was also a village official because Alauddin Khalji had the account books of the patwaris examined in order to detect frauds by the amils and mutsarrifs who were dealt with very harshly.
  • The judicial administration of the sub-division was patterned on that of the centre. Courts of the qazi and sadr functioned in the provinces.
    • The korwal maintained law and order.
    • At the village level, the panchayat heard civil cases.
  • Thus, a rudimentary system of government, some of it inherited from the earlier Hindu rulers, continued down to the village level.
  • In this way, gradually a new centralised form of government emerged.
    • The first step was the consolidation of the central government.
    • As the central government became stronger and more confident, it tried to extend its direct control over the regions and the countryside, which, in turn, implied reducing the powers and privileges of the chiefs who dominated the countryside.
    • This led to a prolonged struggle, and no clear forms had emerged by the time the Delhi sultanat disintegrated. This was a task which was taken up by the Mughals later on.

Theory of Kingship under Delhi Sultanate

  • No clear and well-defined law of succession developed in the Sultanate.
    • Hereditary principle was accepted ‘but not adhered to invariably.
    • There was no rule that only the eldest son would succeed (primogeniture). In one case, even a daughter was nominated (for exemple, Raziya Sultan).
    • At any rate, a slave, unless he was manumitted, that is, freed, could not claim sovereignty. In fact, as it operated in the Sultanate, ‘the longest the sword, the greater the claim‘.
  • Thus, in the absence off any succession rule in the very beginning intrigues surfaced to usurp power:
    • After Aibak’s death, it was not his son Aram Shah but his slave and son-in-law Iltutmish who captured the throne.
    • Iltutmish’s death (1236 AID.) was followed by a long period of struggle and strife when finally Balban, Iltutmish’s slave of the “Forty” fame, assumed power in 1266 A.D.
  • Balban attempted to give a new shape to the concept of kingship to salvage the prestige of the office of the Sultan, but the struggle for power that started soon after Balban’s death confirms again that the ‘sword’ remained the main deciding factor.
    • Kaiqubad was installed at the throne against the claims of Balban’s nominee. Kaikhusrau. Later, even he was slain by the Khalji Maliks (1290 A.D.) who laid the foundation of the Khalji rule.
  • Balban’s theory of Kingship:
    • The assumption of the throne by Balban at Delhi (1266) marks the beginning of an era of strong, centralized government. Balban sought to increase the prestige and power of the monarchy, and to centralise all authority in the hands of the sultan because he was convinced that this was the only way to face the internal and external dangers facing him.
    • Divine kinship theory:
      • He underlined the theory that the sultan was the “shadow of God’ (zil-i-allah), and emphasised it by insisting that in his court anyone presented to him had to perform the sijda and pabos, or prostration before the sovereign, a practice which, according to the theologians, was reserved for God alone.
    • He hankered back to the Iranian theory of kingship.
      • According to the Iranian theory, the king was divine or semi -divine in character, and answerable only to God, not to any set of intermediaries, i.e. religious figures.
      • As such, there was a fundamental difference between the ruler and the nobles, the latter being dependent on the sultan’s favour, and in no way equal to him.
    • He maintained a splendid court in which all the nobles had to stand in serried ranks, strict order being maintained by the Mir Hajib who was always an important noble.
      • Balban himself maintained the utmost dignity in the Court. He would neither laugh out aloud himself nor allow anyone else to do so.
    • Balban was not prepared to share power with anyone.
      • At the same time, he tried to stand forth as the defender of the entire Turkish nobility.
      • For the purpose he declared that he would not give any post in the government or an iqta, or a post of authority in the local administration to any person belonging to a low or ignoble family.
      • He was critical towards low-borns. He said “When I look at a low born, every artery in my body begins to irritate with fury and my hand goes to the sword.”
    • He focused lineage and race and he claim his lineage from Khaqan Afrasiyap, who was a mythical hero described in the book-Shahnama by Firdausi.

    • Highly autocratic characterized by cold, calculated despotism.

    • Focused on Justice and follow the dictum – ‘Kingship knows no kinship’.

    • The influence of the turkan-i chihilgani was minimised.

    • Overall approach was to make crown a magnificent institution and to establish its prestige and power.

    • Maintained a formal link with caliph and caliph name was still in use on coin and in khutba.

  • Jajaluddin Khalji’s theory of Kingship:
    • Followed liberal and humanitarian principle.
    • Kingship based on goodwill and support of people of all community
    • Benevolent and beneficial approach.
    • Negated the demand of some Ulemas.
    • Pursued the policy of granting freedom to Hindus. Hindus moved in possessions beating drums nearby his palace for immersion of images in Yamuna.
    • He presented view that the policy of terror can establish fear of government for a short time but it would mean discarding  true Islam from the heart of the people.
    • Barani gives reference of his benevolent approach that he did not harm even an ant.
  • In 1296 A.D. Alauddin Khalji, killed his uncle, Jalaluddin Khalji and occupied the throne. Alauddin Khalji’s death signalled civil war and scramble for power.
  • Ala-ud-din Khalji:
    • Khalji’s idea of kingship is that Kingship is not a monopoly of any priviledge class but within the reach of those who have the power and ability to hold it.
    • Saw a broadening in the composition of nobles.
      • He did not admit of monopolisation of the state by any one single group of nobles. State office were open to talent and loyalty, to the exclusion of race and creed. Besides, he controlled them through various measures.
      • He didn’t claim sovereignty on the strength of racial superiority.
    • Near secular outlook:
      • He tried to separate state from religion. He was the first sultan to make such declaration.
      • He negated role of Ulemmas, He said “I don’t know what is right and what is wrong, I give orders which are in the interest of state.”
      • To him the law was dependent upon the will of the monarch and not that of prophet. When the Chief Qazi remonstrated with him for inflicting severe punishments on rebels and officials as being contrary to canon law, he bluntly stated: I issue such orders as I conceive to be good for the State and the benefit of the people. Men are heedless, disrespectful and disobey my commands. I am then compelled to be severe to bring them to obedience. I do not know whether this is lawful of unlawful; whatever I think for the good of the state or suitable for the emergency that I decree and as for what may happen to me on the approaching day of judgement that I do not know. (Barani)
      • Hence, Alauddin ruled according to the political exigencies of the time, in no way, bound by the Ulemas who ultimately had to acquiesce to his authority.
    • Kingship was mainly based on force and military power and control over nobility:
      • 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, 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.
    • He 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.
    • Imperial outlook:
      • He was the Sultan who began sultanate imperialism. He adopted title- Sikandar-i-sani – on his coin.
      • He followed policy of reducing the kingdoms of the Deccan and the South as tributary states which would accept his suzerainty and pay annual tribute.
      • He was  conscious that administration of these places from distant Delhi was a very difficult task, because if the rulers of these kingdoms were removed, it might lead to local resistance and would create trouble.
      • That Alauddin had established his authority and suzerainty in the Deccan and the South is also borne out by one of the Jain works, Nabinandra-Jinodhara-Prabandha.
      • One of the aim of Alauddin’s Deccan policy was territorial expansion; as far as wealth is concerned, it always accompanies territorial expansion in the shape of added revenue. In case of Alauddin, it was more because it meant annual tribute without incurring any administrative expenditure.
    • He maintained formal relation with the caliph and adopted a title- lieutenant of caliph.
    • Amir khusro and Zaiuddin Barani describe him as – Shadow of God on earth which is indicative of divine kingship.
  • Muhammad Bin Tughluq’s theory of Kingship:
    • Highly autocratic and despotic.
    • Near secular outlook:
      • Separation of state and religion. Focused on political consideration and state interest.
      • While at no time did he go out of his way to defy the Shariat, he also did not strain himself to win over their support on important issues.
      • Muhammad bin Tughlaq went so far as to substitute the name of the Abbasid caliph in his coins. Later, he also received a formal rescript (manshur) from the Caliph. But all this could hardly change the attitude of the orthodox elements towards him.
      • Negation of Ulemmas.
      • He personally supervised the enforcement of justice, and hence he overruled the advice of the Ulemad and Qazis whenever he found it divorced from the law.
      • Whenever the Ulemas were found guilty of embezzlement and rebellion, the Sultan inflicted severe punishment upon them.
      • Catholic approach to religions.
        • He was first Sultan who participated in the festival of Holi, first who employed Hindus in even high offices.
    • Imperial approach:
      • Higher imperial ambition than Alauddin. It was under him that territory of sultanate reached it’s peak.
      • He was full of imperialistic ambitions and cherished extravagant vision of universal conquest. Since he had inherited the largest, ever bequeathed to a Delhi Sultan, it was, therefore logical for him to explore fresh avenues, both within and without.
    • Creation of composite nobility:
      • Approach towards nobility was, not based on racial or on narrow considerations.
      • Created composite nobility and included person of very low status on the basis of talent like – The cook, The gardener etc.
      • He welcomed not only those families which had settled in India for long and had served previous rulers but also admitted to the service persons from the artitions or other classes/ castes despised by the Turks such as gardeners, barbers, cooks, weavers, wine-distillers, musicians etc. Some of these were converts and some were Hindus.
      • Thus his nobility was very heterogeneous in character but could not be an instrument on which the Sultan could lean in times of difficulty.
      • Even though the low cates appointees and many Turks and Hindustani nobles remained loyal, the Mongol and Afghan Sadah Amira behaved differently.
      • He was also the first who include Sufi into nobility and who entered into matrimonial alliance the Sufi.
    • He had highly innovative approach and taken such steps like: Second capital to Daulatabad, Token currency, agricultural experiment and foreign campaign.
  • Firuz Shah Tughluq’s theory of Kingship:
    • Linked state and religion. He proclaimed to rule on the basis of Islam. He appeased Ulemmas, he abolished many taxes which were unislamic. He imposed Jaziya on Brahmans.
    • Benevolent and welfare approach: Irrigation, marriage bureau, employment bureau, promoted public work, Education- establishment of Madrasa and Hospital etc.
    • He followed appeasement approach toward Nobles, Muqtis and made Iqta hereditary.
    • He maintained link with caliph by using caliph name of coins and in khutba.
  • With the accession of the Lodis (1451-1526 A.D.) a new element-the Afghans was added.
    • The Afghans had a certain peculiar concept of sovereignty.
    • They were prepared to accept the position of a Sultan over them, but they sought to partition the empire among their clans (Farmulis, Sarwanis, Niyazh, etc.).
  • After the death of Sultan Sikandar Lodi (1517 A.D.), the empire was divided between Ibrahim and Jalal (younger brother). Even the royal privileges and prerogatives were equally shared by the clan members.
    • For example, keeping of elephants was the royal privilege but Azam Humayun Sarwani is reported to have possessed seven hundred elephants.
    • The Afghans entertained the concept of maintaining tribal militia which in the long run greatly hampered the military efficiency of the Central Government.
    • It is true that Sikandar Lodi tried to keep the ambitious Afghan nobles in check, but it seems that the concept of Afghan polity was more tilted towards decentralization that created fissures in the end.

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