Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat , Malwa, And Lodis

Rise of Provincial Dynasties: Bengal, Kashmir (Zainul Abedin), Gujarat , Malwa, And Lodis

Political Situation and Balance of Power in north India:

  • Timur’s invasion of Delhi in 1398 hastened the downfall of the Tughlaq dynasty, and the end of the Sultanat of Delhi. Even before Timur’s invasion, the weakness of the Sultanat of Delhi had become manifest to all, with the emergence of two kings, one at Firuzabad and another at Delhi and the breaking away of many provincial kingdoms.
  • The Deccani states, and Bengal in the east, and Sindh and Multan in the west had broken away towards the end of Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s rule, and after some feeble efforts, Firuz had reconciled himself to their loss.
  • Following the Timurid invasion, the governors of Gujarat, Malwa, and Jaunpur (in the east Uttar Pradesh) declared themselves independent, while Khizr Khan assumed full powers in the Punjab. With the expulsion of the Muslim governor from Ajmer, the various states of Rajputana also asserted their independence. Even within the Delhi region, the rulers were hard put to assert their control.
  • While these various provincial kingdoms and Rajput states fought against each other, it would be wrong to consider the 15th century a period of decadence and decline in north India.
  • Politically, warfare between the various states rarely extended beyond the border regions, with a definite pattern of balance of power emerging between the states located in the various regions—east, west and north. In the west, Gujarat, Malwa and Mewar balanced and checked the growth of each other’s power. In the east, Bengal was checked by the Gajpati rulers of Orissa, as also by the Sharqi rulers of Jaunpur. In the north, while Kashmir remained aloof, the rise of the Lodis at Delhi towards the middle of 15th century led to a long drawn out struggle between them and the rulers of Jaunpur for the mastery of the Ganga-Jamuna doab.
  • The balance of power began to break down by the end of the 15th century. With the final defeat of Jaunpur by the Lodis, and the extension of their rule from Punjab up to the borders of Bengal, the Sultanat of Delhi had been virtually re-established, and the heat was on eastern Rajasthan and Malwa.
  • Meanwhile, Malwa itself had started disintegrating due to internal factors, leading to a sharpened rivalry between Gujarat and Mewar. The Lodis, too, were keen to use the situation in order to extend their rule over the region. Thus, Malwa once again became the cock-pit of the struggle for mastery of north India.
  • Culturally, the new kingdoms which arose tried to utilise local cultural forms and traditions for their own-purposes. This was mostly manifested in the field of architecture where efforts were made to adopt and adapt the new architectural forms developed by the Turks by utilising local forms and traditions. In many cases, encouragement was given to local languages, while political necessity compelled many of them to establish a closer association with Hindu ruling elites. This, in turn, had an effect on the processes of cultural rapprochement between the Hindus and the Muslims which had been working apace.

(1) Eastern India—Bengal, Assam and Orissa

(A) Bengal

  • Bengal had frequently asserted its independence from Delhi, taking advantage of its distance, difficulty of communications by land or water, and the fact that its hot and humid climate often did not suit soldiers and others used to the drier climate of north-western India.
  • Due to the preoccupation of Muhammad Tughlaq with rebellions in various quarters, Bengal again broke away from Delhi in 1338.
  • Four years later, one of the nobles, Ilyas Khan, captured Lakhnauti and Sonargaon, and ascended the throne under the title Sultan Shamsuddin Ilyas Khan.

Sultan Shamsuddin Ilyas Khan (1342-1358):

  • He became the sultan of the kingdom of Lakhnauti in 1342 and after conquering the kingdom of Sonargoan in 1352, he became the sole ruler of whole Bengal and thus he became the founder of a sultanate of the unified Bengal. He founded the Ilyas Shahi dynasty which ruled Bengal for 73 years (1342–1415) and after a gap of 20 years (1415–1435) the dynasty again ruled Bengal for 52 years (1435–1487). Ilyas Shah was succeeded by his son Sikandar Shah.
  • Ilyas extended his dominions in the west from Tirhut to Champaran and Gorakhpur, and finally upto Banaras. This forced Firuz Tughlaq to undertake a campaign against him. Marching through Champaran and Gorakhpur, the territories newly acquired by Ilyas, Firuz Tughlaq occupied the Bengali capital Pandua, and forced Ilyas to seek shelter in the strong fort of Ekdala. After a siege of two months, Firuz tempted Ilyas out of the fort by feigning flight. In a hard fought battle, the Bengali forces were defeated. But Ilyas Khan once again retreated into Ekdala.
  • Finally, a treaty of friendship was concluded by which the river Kosi in Bihar was fixed as the boundary between the two kingdoms. Though Ilyas exchanged regular gifts with Firuz, he was in no way subordinate to him.
  • Friendly relations with Delhi enabled Ilyas to extend his control over the kingdom of Kamrup (in modern Assam). He also made plundering raids upto Kathmandu in Nepal, and in Orissa.
  • Ilyas Shah was a popular ruler and had many achievements to his credit. When Firuz was at Pandua, he tried to win over the inhabitants of the city to his side by giving liberal grants of land to the nobles, the clergy and other deserving people. His attempt failed. The popularity of Ilyas enabled him to set up a dynasty which, in one form or another, ruled for more than a hundred years.
  • Firuz Tughlaq invaded Bengal a second time when Ilyas died and his son, Sikandar, succeeded to the throne. Sikandar followed the tactics of his father, and retreated to Ekdala. Firuz failed, once again, to capture it, and had to beat a retreat. After this, Bengal was left alone for about 200 years and was not invaded again till 1538 after the Mughals had established their power at Delhi. It was overrun by Sher Shah in 1538, but Akbar had to reconquer it after the end of the Sur dynasty.

Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah (1389-1409):

  • Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah was the third Sultan of the first Iliyas Shahi dynasty of Bengal and one of the more widely known of medieval Sultans of Bengal. His tomb is situated in Narayanganj of current day Bangladesh.
  • He was known for his love of justice. Azam Shah had close relations with the famous learned men of his times, including the celebrated Persian poet, Hafiz of Shiraz.
  • Ghiyasuddin was a patron of scholars and poets. Persian poet Hafiz was in correspondence with him. Shah Muhammad Sagir, a Muslim Bengali poet, wrote his famous work, Yusuf-Zulekha, during Ghiyasuddin’s reign. Also during his time Krittivasi Ramayan, a translation of the Ramayana into Bengali, was written by a Hindu poet, Krittibas Ojha.
  • He re-established friendly relations with the Chinese. The Chinese emperor received his envoy cordially and, in 1409, sent his own envoy with presents to the sultan and his wife, and a request to send Buddhist monks to China. This was accordingly done. Incidentally, this shows that Buddhism had not died completely in Bengal till then. Six years later, his successor, Sultan Saifuddin, again sent a letter written on a gold plate, and a giraffe to the Chinese emperor.

Revival of contact with China and Sufi in Bengal:

  • The revival of contact with China helped in the growth of the overseas trade of Bengal. Chittagong became a flourishing port for trade with China. Ocean going ships were built in Bengal, and its exports included fine quality textiles. Bengal also became a centre for the re-export of Chinese goods.
  • Mahuan, the Chinese interpreter to the Chinese envoy, has left an account, and mentions mulberry trees, and the production of silk in Bengal, and paper which was as glossy as deer’s skin.
  • During this period, many sufis came to Bengal. They were welcomed by the Sultan, and encouraged with grant of rent-free lands. These saints impressed the people by their simple style of living, and their deep devotion and saintliness. These saints are credited with effecting conversions to Islam on a large scale, particularly in the eastern part of Bengal where Buddhism was widely prevalent, and poverty was widespread. Perhaps, the conversions were due in large measure to social, cultural and other factors, but credit for conversion was given to the blessing (barkat) of the saints.

Other rulers:

  • Powerful Hindu rajas continued to live under the Muslim rulers of Bengal, and to be associated with the affairs of the state. Thus, Raja Ganesh of Dinajpur, who had a large estate and his own army, first became a king-maker to the successors of Sultan Saifuddin, and later assumed the throne himself. Some of the Turkish nobles and theologians sent an invitation to the ruler of Jaunpur to deliver the land of Islam from kufr. A Jaunpur army was sent to Gaur for the purpose, and won a victory. But it could not stay on because of the active struggle between the rulers of Jaunpur and Delhi. Raja Ganesh, who was an old man, died soon after, and was succeeded by his son who preferred to rule as a Muslim. However, the affairs in the kingdom remained unsettled till Alauddin Husain succeeded to the throne in 1493, and set up a new dynasty which continued to rule till the rise of Sher Shah.

Alauddin Husain Shah (reign 1494–1519):

  • He was an independent late medieval Sultan of Bengal, who founded the Hussain Shahi dynasty. He became the ruler of Bengal after assassinating the Abyssinian Sultan, Shams-ud-Din Muzaffar Shah, whom he had served under as wazir. After his death in 1519 his son Nusrat Shah succeeded him.
  • Husain Shah’s long reign of more than a quarter of a century was a period of peace and prosperity, which was strikingly contrast to the period that preceded it. The liberal attitude of Husain Shah towards his Hindu subjects is also an important feature of his reign.
  • Initial administrative actionsImmediately after accession to the throne, Husain Shah ordered his soldiers to desist from pillaging Gaur, his capital city. But when they continued to do so, he executed many soldiers and recovered the pillaged articles, which included 13,000 gold plates. Next, he disbanded the paiks (the palace guards), who were the most significant agitators inside the palace. He removed all Habshis from administrative posts and replaced them with Turks, Arabs, Afghans and the local people.
  • Engagement with the Delhi Sultanate: Sultan Hussain Shah Sharqi, after being defeated by Bahlol Lodi, retired to Bihar, where his occupation was confined to a small territory. In 1494, he was again defeated by SultanSikandar Lodi and fled to Bengal, where he was granted asylum by Sultan Ala-ud-Din Husain Shah.This resulted in an expedition against Bengal in 1495 by Sultan Sikandar Lodi.The armies of Delhi and Bengal met at Barh near Patna. Sikandar Lodi halted the advance of his army and concluded a treaty of friendship with Ala-ud-din Husain Shah. According to this agreement, the country west of Barh went to Sikandar Lodi while the country east of Barh remained under Husain Shah of Bengal. The final dissolution of the Jaunpur Sultanate resulted in the influx of the Jaunpur soldiery in the Bengal army, which was further strengthened by it.
  • Hussain Shah tried to extend his territories in the north into Assam, in the south-west towards Orissa, and south-east towards Chittagaon and Arakan. Of these, he was most successful in extending his empire towards Chittagaon and Arakan. Control over the port of Chittagaon was an important link with the overseas trade with south-east Asia, extending upto China, on the one hand, and with Africa on the other. In a series of hard fought battles, Tipperah in theeast was also captured and annexed.
  • Kamata-Kamrup expedition: From 1499 to 1502, Husain Shah’s general Shah Ismail Ghazi led an expedition to the Kamata kingdom and annexed the territory up to Hajo. They took Nilambara, the king of Kamata as prisoner and pillaged the capital city. This was publicly recorded in an inscription at Malda.
  • Orissa campaigns: Shah Ismail Ghazi commenced his campaign from the Mandaran fort (in the present-day Hooghly district) in 1508-9 and reached Puri, raiding Jajpur and Katak on the way. The Gajapati ruler of Orissa, Prataparudra was busy in a campaign in the south. On hearing this news, he returned and defeated the invading Bengal army and chased it into the borders of Bengal. He reached the Mandaran fort and besieged it, but failed to take it. Intermittent hostilities between the Bengal and Orissa armies along the border continued throughout the reign of Husain Shah.
  • Expeditions to Tripura and Arakan: According to Rajmala, a late royal chronicle of Tripura, Husain Shah despatched his army four times to Tripura, but the Tripura army offered stiff resistance and did not yield any territory. But the Sonargaon inscription of Khawas Khan (1513) is interpreted as an evidence of annexure of at least a part of Tripura by Hussain Shah’s army. During Husain Shah’s expeditions to Tripura, the ruler of Arakan helped Dhanya Manikya, the ruler of Tripura. He also occupied Chittagong and expelled Husain Shah’s officers from there. In 1513, Husain Shah assigned the charge of Arakan expedition to Paragal Khan. Paragal Khan advanced from his base on the Feni River. After Paragal’s death, his son Chhuti Khan took over the charge of the campaign until Chittagong was wrested from Arakanese control. The hostilities ended in 1516.
  • The Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama, arrived India by sea in 1498.Consequently a Portuguese mission came to Bengal to establish diplomatic relations towards the end of Husain Shah’s reign.

Cultural contribution: 

  • The reign of Husain Shah witnessed a remarkable development of Bengali literature.Under the patronage of Paragal Khan, Husain Shah’s governor of Chittagong, Kabindra Parameshvar wrote his Pandabbijay, a Bengali adaptation of the Mahabharata. Kabindra Parameshvar in his Pandabbijay eulogised Husain Shah as the incarnation of Krishna in the Kaliyuga.
  • Similarly, under the patronage of Paragal’s son Chhuti Khan, who succeeded his father as governor of Chittagong, Shrikar Nandi wrote another Bengali adaptation of the Mahabharata.
  • Bijay Gupta wrote his Manasamangal Kavya also during his reign. He eulogised Husain Shah by comparing him with Arjuna.
  • An official of Husain Shah, Yashoraj Khan, wrote a number of Vaishnava padas and he also praised his ruler in one of his pada.
  • During Husain Shah’s reign a number of significant monuments were constructed. Wali Muhammad built Chota Sona Masjid in Gaur.

    File:Sona Masjid rear.jpg
    Chota Sona Masjid

Religious tolerance:

  • The reign of Husain Shah is also known for religious tolerance towards his Hindu subjects of Bengal.Thus, his wazir was a talented Hindu. The chief physician, the chief of the bodyguard, the master of the mint were all Hindus. The two famous brothers who were celebrated as pious Vaishnavas, Rupa and Sanatan, held high posts, one of them being the sultan’s private secretary. Krittibas, the translator of Ramanayana into Bengali, was said to have been closely associated with Sanatan.
  • However, during his Orissa campaigns, he destroyed some Hindu temples.
  • The celebrated medieval saint, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and his followers preached the Bhakti cult throughout Bengal during his reign. When Husain Shah came to know about Chaitanya Mahaprabhu’s huge following amongst his subjects, he ordered his qazis not to injure him in any way and allow him to go wherever he liked. Later, two high level Hindu officers in Husain Shah’s administration, his Private Secretary, (Dabir-i-Khas) Rupa Goswami and his Intimate Minister (Saghir Malik) Sanatana Goswami became devoted followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.

Architecture in Bengal in this period:

  • Freed from threat of military invasion from Delhi as a result of agreement with Firuz, and the subsequent weakness of the Delhi Sultanat, the Sultans of Bengal adorned their capitals, Gaur (old Lakhnauti) and Pandua 25 kms to the north, with magnificent buildings. However, only a few of them have survived.
  • Adina mosque: The largest building which has survived is the Adina mosque.Built by Sikandar Shah, the second sultan of the Ilyas dynasty, in 1373 by the Adina mosque is one of the largest mosques to be built in the subcontinent and the only hypostyle mosque in Bengal. This mosque was large enough to accommodate several thousand people. Although the stones used in the mosque were mostly those pillaged from temples and other buildings from Lakhnauti, the use of broad sloping arches (called ‘drop’ arches), pillars of a special type, and curvilinear roofs indicate that a new style of architecture, independent of Delhi, and using local traditions had developed.
    Adina Mosque

    This mature style of architecture is to be seen in the Dakhil Darwaza (second half of 15th century).

    Dakhil Darwaza, an impressive gateway built in 1425 in Gauda city. Made of small red bricks and terracotta work.
    The Feroz Minar has certain resemblance like that of the Qutub Minar in Delhi.The Feroz Minar was built by Sultan Saifuddin Feroze Shah during 1485-89. It is adjacent to the Dakhil Darwaza in Gour

    Entry gate at Gaur, Malda..jpg
    Entry gate to Gaur. ( Lukachuri Darwaza or Shahi Darwaza)
  • The buildings were mostly of brick and mortar, stone being used sparingly. The adoption of the lotus, swan etc., as decorative motifs showed the influence of Hindu traditions.


  • The Sultans also patronised the Bengali language.
  • The celebrated poet, Maladhar Basu, compiler of SriKrishna-Vijaya, was patronised by the sultans and was granted the title of Gunaraja Khan. His son was honoured with the title of Satyaraja Khan.
  • But the most significant period for the growth of the Bengali language was the rule of Alauddin Hussain (1493-1519). Some of the famous Bengali writers of the time flourished under his rule. A brilliant period began under the enlightened rule of Alauddin Hussain. Some of the nobles of Alauddin Hussain gave patronage to Bengali poets.

(B) Assam

  • The rulers of Bengal had always tried to bring the rich and fertile valley of Brahmaputra in modern Assam under their control. With the decline of the Palas by the middle of the 12th century, the Brahmaputra valley was divided into a number of warring principalities.
  • Gradually, rulers of Kamrup/Kamta in the west(Persian historians use them interchangeably) brought under their control the area between the Kartoya and the Barnadi rivers.The Kamata kingdom appeared in the western part of the older Kamarupa kingdom in the 13th century, after the fall of the Pala dynasty.The rise of the Kamata kingdom marked the end of the ancient period in the History of Assam and the beginning of the medieval period.
  • To their east were the Ahoms. The Ahoms belonged to the great Tai group of tribes which dominated south China and many south-east Asian countries. They came to the Brahmaputra valley from Yunan in the first half of the 13th century and, under their ruler Sukapha, established their control over the modern districts of Dibrugarh and Sibsagar. In course of time, the entire valley began to be called Assam after their name.
  • The Ahom Kingdom (1228–1826) was a kingdom in the Brahmaputra valley in Assam, India that maintained its sovereignty for nearly 600 years and successfully resisted Mughal expansion in North-East India. Established by Sukaphaa, a Tai prince from Mong Mao, it began as a Mong in the upper reaches of the Brahmaputra river based on wet rice cultivation. It expanded suddenly under Suhungmung in the 16th century and became multi-ethnic in character, casting a profound effect on the political and social life in the entire Brahmaputra valley.
The Ahom Kingdom. Circa 1826. The kingdom was founded by Sukaphaa between the Dikhau and the Dihing rivers in the 13th century
  • Muhammed bin Baktiyar Khalji had led an expedition in Kumrup, aimed at Tibet, but had to suffer a disastrous defeat in an area which was little known to him. The subsequent efforts of Turkish governors and rebel rulers of Bengal to bring the area under their subservience and to establish themselves in Gauhati also failed due to climate, geography and the stout resistance of the local people. However, for some time the rulers of Kamrup/Kamta was forced to pay an annual tribute in gold and elephants to Bengal, and this became a basis of its future claims.
  • The independent sultans of Bengal took up where their predecessors have failed. Ilyas Shah invaded Kamrup, and occupied its capital. However, the Ahoms were not happy at the presence of Turks so near their frontier, and shortly, with their help, the ruler of Kamrup threw the Turks across the river Kartoya which was now accepted as the north-eastern boundary of Bengal.
  • However, the rulers of Bengal were determined to bring Kamrup under their control at the first suitable opportunity. This they found an account of the hostility between the ruler of Kamrup and the Ahoms. Alauddin Hussain Shah invaded, occupied and annexed the western part, consisting of modern Cooch Bihar upto Hajo.
  • Despite the internal political situation, and recurrent fights, both within the valley and with the governors and the sultans of Bengal, Kamrup and Kamta maintained their ancient traditions of scholarship, and of Sanskrit learning. Simultaneously, a new language, Assamese, based on the intermingling of the various people and tribes, emerged. The Assamese language entered the Ahom court and co-existed with the Tai language for some time in the 17th century before finally replacing it. The first literary work in Assamese is supposed to be Hem Saraswati’s Prahlad Charit. A new incentive was given with the rise of neo-Vaishnavite movement under Shankardeva (1449). Like the bhakti saints of north-western India, Shankardeva and his followers emphasised prayers and devotion in preference to ritual. In order to reach the people, these saints spoke and wrote in Assamese. Their centres, called namghoras, became active centres for the dissemination of the new faith, and its literature.
  • Thus, the 15th century can be called a period of literary and cultural renaissance in Assam.
  • Another development of the period was the steady Hinduization of the Ahoms, by incorporating their gods into the Hindu pantheon, marriage with Hindu noble families etc. The Ahom rulers were aware that accepting Hinduism implied giving the ruler a divine status which strengthened his position vis-a-vis the nobles. Also, by incorporating the cognate clans and bordering tribes, Hinduism strengthened the new polity.

(C) Orissa

  • In those days, the boundaries of Orissa were not clearly demarcated from Bengal. The Ganga rulers, who came to power in middle of the 11th century and ruled till the middle of the 15th century, unified the three areas—Utkal, Kalinga, and Kosala which constitute present Orissa.The Eastern Ganga dynasty reigned from Kalinga and their rule consisted of the whole of the modern-day Indian state of Odisha as well as parts of West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh from the 11th century to the early 15th century. Their capital was known by the name Kalinganagar, which is the modern Srimukhalingam in Srikakulam District of Andhra Pradesh bordering Odisha.
  • The dynasty was founded by King Anantavarman Chodaganga, descendents of the Western Ganga Dynasty that rule southern parts of modern Karnataka state from the 4th century to the end of the 10th century and the Chola dynasty. King Chodaganga was originally a Shaivite from Srimukhalingam who became a Vaishnava under the influence of Ramanuja when he visited Jagannath Puri. A copper plate inscription made by King Rajaraja III found on the Tirumala temple near the north entrance states that Jagannath temple was built by Gangesvara, i.e., Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva.
  • The Ganga rulers were great warriors and temple builders. Narsinghdeo, (1264) considered one of the greatest rulers, built the famous sun temple at Konark. He  invaded southern Bengal in 1243, defeated its Muslim ruler, captured the capital (Gauda), and built the Sun Temple at Konark to commemorate his victory.He invaded and occupied Radha in south Bengal, and even invested Lakhnauti more than once which was saved by the timely intervention of a Delhi army. At the time, the Orissa frontier with Bengal was the Saraswati river which then carried much of the waters of the Ganga.

    File:Konark Sun Temple Front view.jpg
    Konark Sun Temple at Konark, Orissa, built by King Narasimhadeva I (AD 1236–1264), it is now a World Heritage Site.
File:Eastern Ganga Fanam.jpg
A Fanam (Coin) of Eastern Ganga Dynasty
  • An inscription says the eastern Ganga King of Odisha, Narasimhadeva II (1279–1306), built the central shrine of Simhachalam Temple in 1267.Simhadri or Simhachalam is a Hindu temple located in the Visakhapatnam City suburb of Simhachalam in Andhra Pradesh,South India. It is dedicated to Narasimha (the man-lion), an incarnation (avatar) of Vishnu. The architectural style of the central shrine is Kalinga architecture.(The Kaḷinga architectural style is a style which flourished in the ancient Kalinga region or present eastern Indian state of Odisha and northern Andhra Pradesh. The style consists of three distinct types of temples: Rekha Deula, Pidha Deula and Khakhara Deula. The former two are associated with Vishnu, Surya and Shiva temples while the third is mainly with Chamunda and Durgatemples. The Rekha Deula and Khakhara Deula houses the sanctum sanctorum while the Pidha Deula constitutes outer dancing and offering halls.)
    File:Simhachalam-temple-2 big.jpg
    Simhachalam Temple
    File:Lord narasimha rock statue backyard simhachalam temple.jpg
    Statue at Simhachalam temple of Lord Narasimha killing the demon Hiranyakshipu
    File:Lord Varaha stonecarved statue at Simhachalam temple.jpg
    Lord Varaha stone statue at Simhachalam temple

    File:A Stone carved throne in the backyard of Simhachalam temple.jpg
    A Stone carved throne at Simhachalam temple
  • A large part of the modern Midnapore district and parts of the Hugli district were included in Orissa. The Orissa rulers, it seemed, tried to extend their frontiers upto the Bhagirathi, but could not do so in the face of opposition from the rulers of Bengal.
  • At the beginning of his reign, Ilyas Shah raided Jajnagar (Orissa). It is said that overcoming all opposition, he advanced up to the Chilka Lake and returned with a rich booty.
  • A couple of years later, in 1360, while returning from his Bengal campaign, Firuz Tughlaq also raided Orissa. He occupied the capital city, massacred a large number of people, and desecrated the famous Jagannath temple.
  • With the death of Narasimha in 1264, the Eastern Gangas began to decline; the sultan of Delhi invaded Orissa in 1324, and Vijayanagar defeated the Orissan powers in 1356. These two raids and raids of Ilyas Shah and Firuz Tughlaq destroyed the prestige of the royal dynasty but it lingered on till the middle of 15th century when a new dynasty, called the Gajpati dynasty, came to the fore.
  • The Gajapatis were a medieval Hindu dynasty that ruled over Kalinga (the present day Odisha), large parts ofAndhra Pradesh and West Bengal, and the eastern and central parts of Madhya Pradesh and the southern parts of Bihar from 1434-1541. Gajapati dynasty was established by Kapilendra Deva (1434–66) in 1434.
  • The Gajapati rule marks a brilliant phase in Orissa history. The Gajapati rulers were mainly instrumental in extending their ruler in the south toward Karnataka. This brought them into conflict with Vijayanagar, the Reddis and the Bahmani sultans. Perhaps, one reason why the Gajapati rulers preferred aggarandizement in the south was their feeling that the sultans of Bengal were too strong to be easily dislodged from the Bengal-Orissa border. While this brought them glory and booty, the Orissa rulers could not hold on to their southern conquests for any length of time, due to the power and capabilities of the Vijayanagar and Bahmani rulers. That the Orissa rulers were able to engage successfully in battles at the same time in such farflung areas in Bengal and Karnataka testifies to their strength and prowess.
  • The  Orissa language also developed during the period, with many works being produced in poetry and prose. Sarala Mahabharata by Sarala Dasa, a transcreation of the original Sanskrit one was written during this period. Similarly transcreation of the Ramayana and Bhagvata Purana were written. They constitute the best examples of Oriya literature.
  • Although Bengal was the most powerful among the various kingdoms of the regions, it was not, despite plundering them, able to bring the states of Assam and Orissa under its control. A threat to the freedom of Bengal developed when the Lodi rulers over-ran Jaunpur with whom the rulers of Bengal had friendly relations. The defeated ruler of Jaunpur took shelter in the Bengal kingdom and was accorded a warm welcome. A threatened collision was averted, although the armies of Bengal and Delhi stood face to face for some time. As a result of the agreement, Bihar was silently partitioned between the two.

(2) Western India: Gujarat, Malwa and Rajasthan

  • On account of their size, rich and fertile lands and salubrious climate, Gujarat and Malwa were always regarded as rich prizes. Gujarat was famous for its excellent handicrafts and its flourishing sea-ports from which much of north India’s sea-trade was conducted. Malwa and Rajasthan were important transit centres, linking the products of the Ganga valley with the sea-ports of Gujarat. Hence, control over Malwa and Gujarat and the road link across Rajasthan had always been the concern of any imperial power in the north or south.
  • During the 15th century, Malwa and Gujarat balanced each other. While both tried to bring the border states of Rajasthan under their domination, they were unable to make deep in-roads into Rajasthan, mainly on account of the rise of Mewar under Rana Kumbha. But this balance began to break down during the early decades of the 16th century, leading to a new, emerging situation.

(A) Gujarat

  • Under Firuz Tughlaq, Gujarat had a benign governor who, according to Ferishta, “encouraged the Hindu religion and thus promoted rather than suppressed the worship of idols.” He was succeeded by Zafar Khan whose father, Sadharan, was a Rajput who was converted to Islam, and had given his sister in marriage to Firuz Tughlaq.
  • After Timur’s invasion of Delhi, both Gujarat and Malwa became independent in all but name. However, it was not till 1407 that Zafar Khan formally proclaimed himself the ruler in Gujarat, with the title Muzaffar Shah. and established Gujarat Sultanate.
  • Dilawar Khan Ghuri, the governor of Malwa, had declared himself independent at Mandu a few years earlier.

Ahmad Shah I (1411-42):

  • The real founder of the Gujarat Sultanate  was, however, Ahmad Shah I (1411-42), the grandson of Muzaffar Shah.
  • During his long reign, he brought the nobility under control, settled the administration, and expanded and consolidated the kingdom. He shifted the capital from Patan to the new founded city of Ahmedabad, the foundation of which he laid in 1413.
  • He was a great builder, and beautified the town with many magnificent palaces and bazars, mosques and madrasas. He drew on the rich architectural tradition of the Jains of Gujarat to devise a style of building which was markedly different from Delhi. Some of its features are: slender turrets, exquisite stone-carving, and highly ornate brackets.
  • The Jama Masjid in Ahmedabad and the Tin Darwaza are fine examples of the style of architecture during the time.

    Jama Masjid, Ahmedabad 01.jpg
    Jama Masjid (literally Friday Mosque) built in 1424 during the reign of Ahmed Shah I. Lying in the old party of walled city, the mosque is situated outside Bhadra Fort area
Teen Darwaza is a historical gateway on the east of Bhadra Fort, Ahmedabad, lndia. Completed in 1415.
File:Silver coin of Ahmad Shah of Gujarat.jpg
Silver tanka of Qutb ud-Din Ahmad Shah II (1451-1458) of Gujarat,
Copper coin of Muzaffir Shah
  • Ahmad Shah tried to extend his control over the Rajput states in the Saurashtra region, as well as those located on the Gujarat-Rajasthan border. In Saurashtra, he defeated and captured the strong fort of Girnar, but restored it to the Raja on his promise to pay tribute. He then attacked Sidhpur, the famous Hindu pilgrim centre, and levelled to the ground many of the beautiful temples there.
  • In addition to peshkash or annual tribute, he imposed jizyah on the Hindu rulers in Gujarat which had never been imposed on them earlier. However, just as jizyah was collected as a part of the land-revenue (kharaj) from individuals in the Sultanat of Delhi, jizyah and peshkash must have been collected together from the rajas. All these measures led many medieval historians to hail Ahmad Shah as a great enemy of the infields. While Ahmad Shah acted as a bigot in ordering the destruction of Hindu temples, he did not hesitate to induct Hindus in government. Manik Chand and Motichand, belonging to the bania, were ministers under him.
  • He was so strict in his justice that he had his own son-in-law executed in the market-place for a murder he had committed. Although he fought the Hindu rulers he fought no less the Muslim rulers of the time, i.e. the Muslim rulers of Malwa, Khandesh and the Deccan. He subordinated the powerful fort of Idar, and brought the Rajput states of Jhalawar, Bundi, Dungarpur, etc., under his control.
  • From the beginning, the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa were bitter rivals and were generally found in opposite camps on almost every occasion. The warfare between them, like the warfare between the rulers of Vijayanagar and the Bahmanis, did not, however, lead to any lasting change in their frontiers.
  • Muzaffar Shah had defeated and imprisoned Hushang Shah who succeeded Dilawar Khan as the ruler of Malwa. Finding it difficult to control Malwa, he had, however, released Hushang Shah after a few years and reinstated him. Far from healing the breach, it had made the rulers of Malwa even more apprehensive of Gujarat’s power. They were always on the lookout for weakening Gujarat by giving help and encouragement to disaffected elements there, be they the rebel nobles, or Hindu rajas at war with the Gujarat ruler. The rulers of Gujarat tried to counter this by trying to install their own nominee on the throne of Malwa. This bitter rivalry weakened the two kingdoms, and made it impossible for them to play a larger role in the politics of north India.

Mahmud Begarha:

  • The successors of Ahmad Shah continued his policy of expansion and consolidation. The most famous sultan of Gujarat was Mahmud Begarha (great-grandson of Ahmad Shah I). Mahmud Begarha ruled over Gujarat for more than 50 years (from 1459 to 1511).
  • He was called Begarha because he captured two of the most powerful forts (garhs), Girnar in Saurashtra (now called Junagarh) and Champaner in south Gujarat. The ruler of Girnar had paid tribute regularly, but Mahmud Begarha decided to annex his kingdom as a part of his policy of bringing Saurashtra under full control. Saurashtra was a rich and prosperous region and had many fertile tracts and flourishing ports. Unfortunately, the Saurashtra region was also infested by robbers and seapirates who preyed on trade and shipping. The powerful fort of Girnar was considered suitable not only for administering Saurashtra, but also as a base of operations against Sindh.
  • The ruler of Girnar had forcibly taken the wife of his kamdar (minister/agent) who schemed in secret the downfall of his master. After the fall of the fort, the raja embraced Islam and was entrolled in the service of the sultan. The sultan founded at the foot of the hill a new town called Mustafabad((now Junagadh). He built many lofty buildings there and asked all his nobles to do the same. Thus, it became the second capital of Gujarat.
  • Later in his region, Mahmud Begarha sacked Dwarka, largely because it harboured pirates who ravaged the traders. Thus, the immediate occasion for Mahmud’s attack was the plaint of Maulana Mahmud Samarquandi that while returning to Hormuz, all his property looted by the pirates who were sheltered by the local ruler. The campaign was also used to raze the famous Hindu temples there.
  • The fort of Champaner( Pavagadh fort) was strategically located for the Sultan’s plans of bringing Khandesh and Malwa under his control. The ruler, though a feudatory of Gujarat, had close relations with the sultan of Malwa. Champaner fell in 1454 after the gallant raja and his followers, despairing of help from any quarter, performed the jauhar ceremony and fought to the last man.
  • Mahmud constructed a new town called Muhammadabad (Mahemdabad) near Champner. He laid out many fine gardens there and made it his principal place of residence.
  • Champner is now in ruins. But the building that still attracts attention is the Jama Masjid. It has a covered courtyard, and many Jain principles of architecture have been used in it. The stone work in the other buildings constructed during this period is so fine that it can only be compared to the work of goldsmiths.
    Jama masjid in Champaner.JPG
    Jama Masjid with Muslim and Hindu Architecture

    File:Inside Pillars.jpg
    Interior pillars of Jama Masjid.
  • He is also credit with the completion of Sarkhej Roza.Sarkhej Roza is a mosque and tomb complex located near Ahmedabad.

  • Mahmud Begarha also had to deal with the Portuguese who were interfering with Gujarat’s trade with the countries of West Asia. He joined hands with the ruler of Egypt to check the Portuguese naval power, but he was not successful. (The Sultan was ambitious and contacted the Ottoman Empire and the Sultan of Cairo to obtain reinforcements for a Muslim conquest of India. It is during his reign that the famous Battle of Diu took place.)
  • The Sultan is also credited with capturing the island of Bombay from the Koli (fisherman) tribe, they were vassal of Bahmani Sultanate.Later one of his descendants Bahadur Shah, handed the island over to the Portuguese in 1535.
  • During the long and peaceful reign of Mahmud Begarha, trade and commerce prospered. He constructed many caravan-sarais amd inns for the comfort of the travellers. The merchants were happy because roads were safe for traffic.
  • Though Mahmud Begarha had never received a systematic education, he had gained considerable knowledge by his constant association with the learned men. Many works were translated from Arabic into Persian during his reign. His court poet was Udayaraja who composed in Sanskrit.
  • Mahmud Begarha had a striking appearance. He had a flowing beard which reached up to his waist, and his moustache was so long that he tied it over his head. According to a traveller, Barbosa, Mahmud, from his childhood, had been nourished on some poison so that if a fly settled on his hand, it swelled and immediately lay dead. Mahmud was also famous for his voracious appetite. It is said that for breakfast he ate a cup of honey, a cup of butter and one hundred to one hundred-fifty plantains. He ate 10 to 15 kilos of food a day and plates of meat patties (samosas) were placed on both the side of his pillow at night in case he felt hungry.
  • From the beginning, the rulers of Gujarat adopted a policy of entering into matrimonial relations with some of their subordinate Rajput rulers. Thus, in 1446, the daughter of the raja of Idar married the Gujarati ruler. The mother of Muzaffar Shah II was also a Rajput, and he himself married a number of Rajput princesses. Although many Hindus rose in the service of the Gujarati rulers, such as Rajya Rayan who was the chief Hindu noble of Mahmud Begarha, and Malik Gopi who was the chief minister, the policy of matrimonial alliances neither brought any changes in the overall policies of the sultans, nor brought the concerned families into a closer political union.
  • The Gujarat kingdom remained a powerful, well-administered and prosperous state of the country, and was powerful enough not to allow any serious encroachments on its territories and ports by the Portuguese. However, its efforts under Bahadur Shah to dominate Malwa and Rajasthan led to a clash with the Mughals and proved its undoing.

(B) Malwa

  • The state of Malwa was situated on the high plateau between Narmada and Tapti rivers. It commanded the trunk routes between Gujarat and northern India, as also between north and south India.
  • As long as Malwa continued to be strong, it acted as a barrier to the ambitions of Gujarat, Mewar, the Bahmanis and the Lodi sultans of Delhi. The geographical situation in northern India was such that if any of the powerful states of the region could extend its control over Malwa, it would be well on its way to make a bid for the domination of the entire northern India.
  • During the fifteenth century, the kingdom of Malwa remained at the height of its power. The capital was shifted from Dhar to Mandu, a place which was highly defensive and which had a great deal of natural beauty. Here the ruler of Malwa constructed a large number of buildings, the ruins of which are still impressive.

Mandu architecture:

  • Unlike the Gujarat style of architecture, the Mandu architecture was massive, and was made to look even more so by using a very lofty plinth for the buildings. The large-scale use of coloured and glazed tiles provided variety to the buildings. The best known among them are the Jama Masjid, the Hindola Mahal and the Jahaz Mahal.
  • Jami/Jama Masjid Inspired by the great mosque of Damascus, this humongous structure is striking in both its simplicity and architectural style-with large courtyards and grand entrances.
    File:Jami Masjid, Mandu 01.jpg
    Jama Masjid

    File:Mandu, Jami Masjid.jpg
    Courtyard of Jama Masjid
  • Hindola Mahal – meaning Swing palace is so named due to its sloping side walls. The Hindola Mahal might have been constructed during the reign of Hushang Shah about 1425 C.E. but may date to the end of the 15th century during the reign of Ghiyas al-Din.The Hindola Mahal may have been used as an audience chamber.
    File:Hindola Mahal 01.jpg
    Hindola Mahal

    File:Hindola Mahal 04.jpg
    The arches of Hindola Mahal
  • Jahaz Mahal is Situated between two artificial lakes, this two storied architectural marvel is so named as it appears as a ship floating in water. Built by Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din-Khilji, it served as a harem for the sultan.
    File:Jahaz Mahal 10.jpg
    Jahaz Mahal

  • Roopmati’s Pavilion: A large sandstone structure originally built as an army observation post it is known today as Roopmati’s Pavilion. Rani Roopmati – the love interest of Baaz Bahadur lived here and is said to have gazed at the Baz Bahadur’s Palace – situated below and also at Narmada river, flowing through the Nimar plains far below, a river which the queen revered.

File:Rupmati Pavilion 04.jpg
Inside the Roopmati’s Pavilion
  • Baz Bahadur’s Palace: Built by Baz Bahadur, this 16th-century structure is famous for its large courtyards encompassed by large halls and high terraces. It is situated below Roopmati’s Pavilion.First figure is of Palace and secod of Courtyard of palace.File:Baz Bahadur's Palace 01.jpgFile:Baz Bahadur's Palace 09.jpg

  • From the beginning, the kingdom of Malwa was torn by internal dissensions. The struggle for succession between different contenders to the throne was accompanied by fighting between different groups of nobles for power and profit. The neighbouring states of Gujarat and Mewar were always ready to take advantage of this factionalism for their own purpose.

Hushang Shah(1401- ):

  • One of the early rulers of Malwa, Hushang Shah,adopted a broad policy of religious toleration. Many Rajputs, some of them from modern east UP, were encouraged to settle in Malwa and given rich grants. Rai Silhadi was one of these. Two of the elder brothers of Rana Mokal of Mewar were also granted jagirs in Malwa. From the inscription of the Lalitpur temple which was built during this period, it appears that no restrictions were placed on the construction of temples.
  • His father Dilawar had shifted the capital from Dhar to Mandu (Allauddin Khilji renamed Mandav/Mandu as Shadiabad the city of joy).
  • The Hoshangabad city in Madhya Pradesh was earlier called Narmadapur after the river Narmada, however later the name was changed to Hoshangabad by him.
  • Hushang Shah extended his patronage to the Jains who were the principal commercial merchants and bankers of the area. Thus, Nardeva Soni, a successful merchant, was the treasurer of Hushang Shah, and one of his adviser.
File:Hoshang Shah's Tomb 02.jpg
Hoshang Shah’s Tomb in Mandu:India’s first marble structure, it is one of the most refined examples of Afghan architecture. Its unique features include the beautifully proportioned dome, intricate marble lattice work and porticoed courts and towers. It served as a template for the construction of Taj Mahal.

Mahmud Khalji (1436-69):

  • Al the rulers of Malwa were not tolerant. Mahmud Khalji (1436-69), who is considered the most powerful of the Malwa rulers, destroyed many temples during his struggle with Rana Kumbha of Mewar, and with the neighbouring Hindu rajas.
  • Mahmud Khalji was a restless and ambitious monarch. He fought with almost all his neighbours—the ruler of Gujarat, the rajas of Gondwana and Orissa, the Bahmani sultans, and even with the sultans of Delhi. However, his energies were principally devoted to overrunning south Rajputana and trying to subdue Mewar.

(C) Mewar

  • The steady rise of Mewar during the 15th century was an important factor in the political life of north India. With the conquest of Ranthambhor by Alauddin Khalji, the power of the Chauhans in Rajputana had finally come to an end. From its ruins a number of new states arose. Taking advantage of the decline of the Tughlaqs, Rao Chunda of Marwar occupied Sambhar, Nagaur and Ajmer, and made Marwar the most powerful state of Rajasthan.
  • However, Marwar received a set back due to the rising power of Mewar, and the hostility of the Bhatis, and the ruler of Multan. Later, Rao Jodha (1438-89) who had to lead a wandering life for some time, founded the new city and capital of Jodhpur (1659), and re -established the state.
  • Another state of consequence in the area was the Muslim principality of Nagaur. Ajmer which had been the seat of power of the Muslim governors changed hands several times and was a bone of contention among the rising Rajput states. The mastery of eastern Rajputana was also in dispute, the rulers of Delhi being deeply interested in this area.

Rana Kumbha(1433-1468):

  • The early history of the state of Mewar is obscure. Though it dated back to the eighth century, the ruler who raised it to the status of a power to be reckoned with was Rana Kumbha (1433-68) belonging to the Sisodia clan of Rajputs.
  • After cautiously consolidating his position by defeating his internal rivals, Kumbha annexed Sambhar, Nagaur, Ajmer, Ranthambhor etc., and brought the border states of Bundi, Kotah, Dungarpur etc., under his control.
  • Since Kotah had earlier been paying allegiance to Malwa, and Dungarpur to Gujarat, this brought Kumbha into conflict with both these kingdoms. There were other reasons for the conflict, too. The Khan of Nagaur who had been attacked by Rana Kumbha had appealed for help to the ruler of Gujarat. The Rana had also give shelter at his court to a rival of Mahmud Khalji and even attempted to install him on the Malwa throne. In retaliation, Mahmud Khalji had given shelter and active encouragement to some of the rivals of the Rana, such as his brother, Mokal.
  • The conflict with Gujarat and Malwa occupied Kumbha throughout his reign. During most of the time, the Rana also had to contend with the Rathors of Marwar. Although sorely pressed from all sides, the Rana was largely able to maintain his position in Mewar. Kumbhalgarh was besieged a couple of times by Gujarat forces, while Mahmud Khalji was able to raid as far inland as Ajmer and install his own governor there. The Rana was able to repulse these attacks and retain possession of most of his conquests, with the exception of some of the outlying areas such as Ranthambhor. Rana Kumbha’s facing two such powerful states against all odds was no small achievement.
  • Kumbha was a patron of learned men, and was himself a learned man. He composed a number of books. The ruins of his palace and the Victory Tower (Kirti Stambha) in 1458, which he built at Chittor show that he was an enthusiastic builder as well.

    Victory Tower (Kirti Stambha)
  • He dug several lakes and reservoirs for irrigation purposes. Some of the temples built during his period show that the art of stone-cutting, sculpture, etc., was still at a high level.
  • Kumbha was murdered by his son, Uda, in order to gain the throne. Uda was soon outsted,
  •  After some time, in 1508, Rana Sanga, a grandson of Kumbha, a scended the gaddi of Mewar, after a long and bitter struggle with his brothers. The most important development between the death of Kumbha and the rise of Sanga was the rapid interiial disintegration of Malwa. The ruler, Mahmud II, had fallen out with Medini Rai, the powerful Rajput leader of eastern Malwa who had helped him to gain the throne. The Malwa ruler appealed for help to Gujarat, while Medini Rai repaired to the court of Rana Sanga. In a battle in 1519, the Rana defeated Mahmud II and carried him a prisoner to Chittor but, it is claimed, he released him after six months, keeping one of his sons as a hostage. Eastern Malwa, including Chanderi, passed under the over lordship of Rana Sanga.
  • The developments in Malwa alarmed the Lodi rulers of Delhi who had been trying to establish their hold on Malwa, Chanderi having tendered allegiance to the Lodi sultan earlier. This led to a series of clashes between the Lodi sultans and Sanga. In a battle in 1518 at Ghatoli, on the border of Harauti in south Rajasthan, Ibrahim Lodi suffered a serious reverse, but Sanga was wounded and lamed for life.
  • There were a series of skirmishes between the Lodis and Sanga whose influence gradually extended to Pilia Khar, a river near Fatehpur Sikri in the region of Agra.
  • Meanwhile, Babur was knocking at the gates of India. It seems that a conflict for supremacy in north India was inescapable.

(3) North-West and North India—The Sharqis, the Lodi Sultans and Kashmir

(A)The Sharqis:

  • After his invasion and attack on Delhi, since the Tughlaq sultan had run away, Timur had given Delhi to Khizr Khan, who had earlier been the governor of Multan. Before his departure, Timur had also assigned Multan and Dipalpur to Khizr Khan. However, the Tughlaq sultan had returned. Hence, Khizr Khan kept away from Delhi, keeping his control over Multan and the Punjab. After the death of the Tughlaq ruler in 1412, he entered Delhi, and set up a new dynasty which he called the Saiyid dynasty.
  • The Saiyids were not subordinates of the Timurid rulers, although their names were included in the khutba for some time. However, the Saiyids were not able to establish themselves firmly, being threatened all the time by the Khokhars of the Punjab, the Mewatis, and the Sharqi rulers of Jaunpur.
  • The Jaunpur kingdom had been set up by Malik Sarwar, a prominent noble of the time of Firuz Tughlaq. Malik Sarwar had been the wazir for some time, and then had been nominated to the eastern areas with the title Malik-us-Sharq (Lord of the east). His successors came to be called the Sharqis after the title.
  • The Sharqi sultans fixed their capital at Jaunpur (in eastern Uttar Pradesh) which they beautified with magnificent palaces, mosques and mausoleums. Only a few of these mosques and mausoleum survive now. They show that the Sharqi sultan did not just copy the Delhi style of architecture. They created a magnificent style of their own, marked by lofty gates and huge arches.
  • The Sharqi sultans were great patrons of learning and culture. Poets and men of letters, scholars and saints assembled at Jaunpur and shed lustre on it. In course of time, Jaunpur came to be known as the “Shiraz of the East“.
  • Malik Muhammad Jaisi, the author of a well-known Hindi work, Padmavat, lived at Jaunpur.
  • The Sharqi sultanat lasted for less than a century. At its height, it extended from Aligarh in western Uttar Pradesh to Darbhanga in north Bihar, and from the boundary of Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the south.
  • The Sharqi rulers were eager to conquer Delhi but they were not successful in doing so. With the establishment of the Lodis in Delhi towards the middle of the fifteenth century, the Sharqi rulers were gradually put on the defensive. They lost most of the areas in western Uttar Pradesh, and exhausted themselves in a series of bitter but futile assaults on Delhi.
  • At length, in 1484, Bahlul Lodi, the ruler of Delhi, occupied Jaunpur and annexed the Sharqi kingdom. The Sharqi king lived on as an exile at Chunar for some time, and died broken hearted after repeated failures in regaining his kingdom.
  • The Sharqi rulers maintained law and order over a large tract following the collapse of the government in Delhi. They successfully prevented the rulers of Bengal in extending their control over east ern Uttar Pradesh. Above all, they established a cultural tradition which continued long after the downfall of the Sharqis.
  • We have mentioned the rise of the Saiyid dynasty after the end of the Tughlaqs. Threatened by the rulers of Jaunpur, the Saiyids had sought the help of the Afghan leader, Bahlul Lodi, who had established himself in Punjab along with a number of Afghan sardars. Bahlul Lodi checked the growing power of the Khokhars, a fierce warlike tribe which lived in the Salt Ranges. Soon, he dominated the entire Punjab. Called in to help the ruler of Delhi against an impending attack by the ruler of Malwa, Bahlul stayed on. Before long, his men took over the control of Delhi. Bahlul formally crowned himself in 1451.

(B) The Lodi:

  • The Lodi dynasty (Lodhi) was an Afghan dynasty that ruled parts of northern India and Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of modern-day Pakistan, from 1451 to 1526. It was founded by Bahlul Khan Lodi when he replaced the Sayyid dynasty.
  • The Lodis dominated the upper Ganga Valley and the Punjab from the middle of the fifteenth century. As distinct from the earlier Delhi rulers who were Turks, the Lodis were Afghans. Although the Afghans formed a large group in the army of the Delhi Sultanat, very few Afghan nobles had been accorded important positions. That is why Bakhtiyar Khalji had to seek his fortune in Bihar and Bengal.
  • The growing importance of the Afghans in north India was shown by the rise of the Afghan rule in Malwa. In the south, they held important positions in the Bahmani kingdom.

Bahlul Khan Lodi (1451–89)

  • Bahlul Khan Lodi (1451–89) was the nephew and son-in-law of Malik Sultan Shah Lodi, the governor of Sirhind in (Punjab) and succeeded him as the governor of Sirhind during the reign of Sayyid dynasty ruler Muhammad Shah (Muhammad-bin-Farid). Muhammad Shah raised him to the status of an Emir.
  • After the last Sayyid ruler of Delhi, Ala-ud-Din Alam Shah voluntarily abdicated in favour of him, Bahlul Khan Lodi ascended the throne of the Delhi sultanate on April 19, 1451. Bahlul spent most of his time in fighting against the Sharqi dynasty and ultimately annexed it. He placed his eldest surviving son Barbak on the throne of Jaunpur in 1486.
  • Bahlul Lodi’s energies were occupied mainly in his contest with the Sharqi rulers. Finding himself in a weak position, Bahlul invited the Afghans of Roh to come to India so that “they will get rid of the ignominy of poverty and I shall gain ascendancy.” The Afghan historian, Abbas Sarwani, adds: “On receipt of these farmans, the Afghans of Roh came like locusts to join the service of Sultan Bahlul.” The incursion of the Afghans not only enabled Bahlul to defeat the Sharqis, it changed the complexion of the Muslim society in India, making the Afghans a very numerous and important element in it, both in south and north India.

Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517)

  • The most important Lodi sultan was Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517). A contemporary of Mahmud Begarha of Gujarat and Rana Sanga of Mewar, Sikandar Lodi geared the kingdom of Delhi for the coming struggle for power with these states. He tried to subdue the Afghan sardars who had a sturdy sense of tribal independence, and were not accus tomed to look upon the sultan as more than a first among equals.
  • Sikandar made the nobles stand before him in order to impress them with his superior status. When a royal order (farman) was sent, all the nobles had to come out of the town to receive it with due honour. Thus Sikandar re-affirmed the supremacy of the sultan over his nobles. All those who held jagirs had to submit accounts regularly. Drastic punishments were given to those who embezzled money or were corrupt.
  • Sikandar Lodi had only limited success in his efforts to control the nobles. At his death, Bahlul Lodi had divided the kingdom among his sons and relations. Though Sikandar had been able to undo this after a hard struggle, the idea of a partition of the empire among sons of the ruler persisted among Afghans.
  • Sikandar Lodi was able to establish an efficient administration in his kingdom. He laid great emphasis on justice, and all the highways of the empire were made safe from robbers and bandits. The prices of all essential commodities were remarkably cheap. The Sultan took keen interest in agriculture. He abolished the octroi duty on grains, and established a new measurement of a yard, called the gazz-i-sikandari, which continued to prevail till the Mughal times. The rent-rolls (jama) prepared in his time formed the basis of the rent-rolls prepared in the time of Sher Shah later on.
  • Sikandar Lodi is regarded as an orthodox, even a bigoted king. He sternly forbade the Muslims from following practices which were against the shara (Islami law), such as women visiting the graves of saints or processions being taken out in their memory. He re-imposed the jizyah on the Hindus, and executed a brahmans for holding that the Hindu and Muslim scriptures were equally sacred. He also demolished a few well- known Hindu temples during his campaigns, such as the temples at Nagarkot.
  • Sikandar Lodi gave magnificent grants to scholars, philosophers and men of letters so that cultured people of all climes and countries, including Arabia and Iran, flocked to his court. Due to the Sultan’s efforts, a number of Sanskrit works were translated into Persian. He was also interested in music and had a number of rare Sanskrit works on music translated into Persian. During the time, a large number of Hindus took to learning Persian and were recruited to various administrative posts. Thus, the process of cultural rapprochement between the Hindus and the Muslims continued apace during his reign.
  • Sikandar Lodi also extended his dominion by conquering Dholpur and Gwaliyar. It was during these operations that after careful survey and deliberations, Sikandar Lodi selected the site for the city of Agra (1506). The town was meant to command the area of eastern Rajasthan and the route to Malwa and Gujarat. It was also meant to control the rebellious nobles and rulers of the doab.  In course of time, Agra became a large town and the second capital of the Lodis.
  • The growing interest of Sikandar Lodi in eastern Rajasthan and Malwa was shown by his taking the Khan of Nagaur under his protection, and by trying to make Ranthambhor transfer its allegiance from Malwa to Delhi.  His successor, Ibrahim Lodi, even led a campaign against Mewar which was repulsed.

Ibrahim Khan Lodi (1489–1526)

  • Sultan Ibrahim Khan Lodi the youngest son of Sikandar, was the last Lodi Sultan of Delhi. Sultan Ibrahim (1517–26) faced numerous rebellions and kept out the opposition for almost a decade. He was engaged in warfare with the Afghans and the Mughals for most of his reign. Sultan Ibrahim was defeated in 1526 at the Battle of Panipat. This marked the end of the Lodi Dynasty and the rise of the Mughal Empire in India led by Babur (1526–1530).
  • The growing power of the Rana in Malwa, and the extension of his powers towards Agra and Bayana, presaged a conflict between Mewar and the Lodis. It is difficult to say what the outcome of this conflict would have been if Babur had not intervened.
  • Lodhi dynasty’s reign ended under Ibrahim Lodi, who faced many attacks by Rana Sanga of Mewar. Rana Sanga defeated the Lodhis several times, which weakened his kingdom. Lodhi’s reign finally ended after he was defeated by Babur, the Turco-Mongol invader from Ferghana, in modern-day Uzbekistan, who later established Mughal dyansty in northern India.

(C) Kashmir:

  • The beautiful valley of Kashmir was for long a forbidden land to all outsiders. According to Albiruni, entry into Kashmir was not allowed even to the Hindus who were not known personally to the nobles there. During this period, Kashmir was known to be a centre of Saivism.
  • However, the situation changed with the ending of the Hindu rule around the middle of the fourteenth century. The devastating attack on Kashmir in 1320 by the Mongol leader, Dulucha, was a prelude to it. Dulucha ordered a wholesale massacre of men, while women and children were enslaved and sold to the merchants of Central Asia. The towns and villages were ravaged and plundered and set on fire. The hapless Kashmir government could offer no opposition to these doings, thereby losing all public sympathy and support.
  • One hundred years after the Mongol invasion, Zainul Abidin, considered the greatest of the Muslim monarchs of Kashmir, ascended the throne. Kashmir society had profoundly changed during this period.
  • There had been a continuous incursion of Muslim saints and refugees from Central Asia into Kashmir, the Baramula route providing an easy access. Another development was the rise of a series of remarkable sufi saints called Rishis, who combined some features of Hinduism and Islam. Partly by the preaching of the saints and partly by force, the lower class population had converted to Islam. To complete the process, a vehement persecution of the brahmans began in the reign of Sikandar Shah (1389-1413). The sultan ordered that all brahmans and learned Hindus should become Musalmans or leave the valley. Their temples were to be destroyed and the idols of gold and silver were to be melted in order to be used for currency. It is said that these orders were issued at the instance of the king’s minister, Suha Bhatt, who had converted to Islam, and was bent on harassing his former co-religionists.

Sultan Ghiyas-ud-Din Zain-ul-Abidin (1420-1470):

  • The situation changed with the accession of Zainul Abidin (1420-70) who had all these orders cancelled.
  • He conciliated and brought back to Kashmir all the non-Muslims who had fled. Those who wanted to revert to Hinduism, or had pretended to be Muslims in order to save their lives, were given freedom to do as they pleased. He even restored their libraries and the grants which the Hindus had enjoyed. The temples were also restored. More than one hundred years later, Abul Fazl noted that Kashmir had one hundred and fifty majestic temples. It is likely that most of them had been restored by Zainul Abidin.
  • Zainul Abidin continued the policy of broad toleration in other spheres as well. He abolished jizyah and cow-slaughter, and to respect the wishes of the Hindus, withdrew the ban on sati. The Hindus occupied many high ranks in his governments. Thus, Sriya Bhatt was minister of justice and court physician. His first two queens were Hindus, being the daughters of the Raja of jammu. He married a third wife after their death.
  • The Sultan was himself a learned man, and composed poetry. He was well versed in Persian, Kashmiri, Sanskrit and Tibetan languages. He gave patronage to Persian and Sanskrit scholars and, at his instance, many Sanskrit works such as the Mahabharata and Kalhana’s history of Kashmir, Rajatarangini were translated into Persian, and brought up-to-date.
  • He was fond of music, and hearing of this, the Raja of Gwaliyar sent him two rare Sanksrit works on music.
  • The Sultan also looked after the economic development of Kashmir. He sent two persons to Samarqand to learn the art of paper-making and book-binding. He fostered many crafts in Kashmir, such as stonecutting and polishing, bottle-making, gold-beating etc. He also encouraged the art of shawl-making, for which Kashmir is so famous. Musket-making and the art of manufacturing fireworks had also developed in Kashmir. The Sultan developed agriculture by making large number of dams, canals and bridges.
  • Zain-ul-Abidin enforced the system of responsibility of the village communities for local crimes. He regulated the price of the commodities. He stabilized the currency which had been debased during the reign of his predecessors. He was responsible for a large number of public works.He founded several new cities, built many bridges and dug many irrigation canals. He also prevented the local governors from exacting illegal taxes and gave the peasants much needed tax relief
  • He was an enthusiastic builder, his greatest achievement being Zaina Lanka—the artificial island in the Woolur lake on which he built his palace and a mosque.
  • He was on friendly terms with regard to the rulers of territories over which he inherited no historic control. The ancient records indicate that he gave and received presents to, and also exchanged embassies with, those who governed over Egypt, Gwalior, Mecca, Bengal, Sindh, Gujurat and elsewhere. Many of the gifts demonstrated the cultured nature of Zain-ul-Abidin; they included works about music, manuscripts and people who were scholars, the latter being sent to him when he commented that an original gift of precious stones was of less interest to him than a gift of a learned nature would have been.
  • During the last days of his reign, his three sons, Adam Khan, Haji Khan and Bahram Khan rebelled against him but he took energetic measures to crush them. He was succeeded by his son Haji Khan, who took the title of Haidar Khan.
  • Zainul Abidin is still called Bud Shah (the Great Sultan) by the Kashmiris. Though a great warrior, he defeated the Mongol invasion of Lakakh, conquered the Baltistan area (called Tibbat-i-khurd), and kept control over Jammu, Rajauri, etc. He, thus, unified the Kashmir kingdom.

    Budshah’s tomb at Srinagar
  • The fame of Zainul Abidin had spread far and wide. He was in touch with the leading rulers in the other parts of India, as also the other leading rulers of Asia.

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