Q. Evaluate Alauddin Khilji’s military and market reforms. [BPSC History Optional, 2012, 40 Marks]


Q. Write a note on: Alauddin Khalji’s market control policy. [BPSC History Optional, 1993, 20 Marks]


Military Reforms of Alauddin Khalji:

Alauddin Khilji was a true militarist. In order to support his theory of absolute kingship, to satisfy his ambition of conquests and annexations and to guard the sultanate from the recurring Mongol invasions, it was necessary to have a powerful army. With these objectives Alauddin introduced far reaching military reforms.

1. Permanent Standing Army:

Prior to Alauddin Khilji, the sultans of Delhi depended on the forces of provincial nobles and feudatory chiefs for strengthening their own forces. Alauddin decided to put an end to this dependence. He devised a programme of raising and maintaining a centrally recruited and trained army. Thus, Alauddin was first among the sultans of Delhi to lay the foundation of a permanent standing army.

The minister in charge of the army (ariz-i-mumalik) was assigned the responsibility of directly recruiting the soldiers of the sultan’s army. He took steps to recruit able and promising young men to the army. They were supplied with horses, arms and other equipments at the expense of the state. They were paid salary in cash from the state treasury.

2. Composition of the Army:

Alauddin maintained one of the largest armies during the early medieval India. According to Ferishta, Alauddin’s army consisted of 4,75,000 cavalrymen. The strength of the infantry must have exceeded the cavalry. Alauddin’s army also had a large number of war elephants.

Swords, bows and arrows, mace, battle-axe, daggers, spears were the important weapons used by the soldiers.

As India lacked good quality horses, Alauddin imported horses from Persia, Arabia and Central Asia.

3. Chehera and Dag:

The organization of Alauddin’s army was based on the Turkish model. Division of units of army was based on the decimal system. Alauddin tried to eliminate two corrupt practices, which were prevalent during medieval times:

  1. One was that regular soldiers used to send irregular and untrained soldiers in their place
    in times of war.
  2. Another common corrupt practice was that the soldiers used to replace good quality horses supplied by the state with ordinary horses.

Both these corrupt practices were detrimental to the efficiency and morale of the army. In order to root out these practices, Alauddin ordered the maintenance of a descriptive roll (chehera or huliya) giving detailed particulars of individual soldiers. He also introduced the practice of branding horses (dag) so that substitution of the horses would not be possible. Diwan-i-Arz maintained the records of all soldiers recruited by the government.

These practices were common in many countries outside India. However, Alauddin Khilji became the first sultan of Delhi to adopt these measures in India. A periodic review of the soldiers, horses and equipment was also undertaken to keep a proper check on the quality and efficiency of the armed forces.

4. Forts:

Forts played an important role in the defence of the territories of the sultanate, especially in the northwestern frontiers. Alauddin repaired the forts constructed by Balban on the northwest frontiers and also constructed new ones. He constructed new forts within the conquered territories as well. These forts were garrisoned and arrangements were made for regular supply of arms, food and fodder.

Market Regulations and Price Control:

Reasons for the Reforms:

The most important administrative reform introduced by Alauddin Khilji was aimed at the regulation of the market and control of prices of essential commodities. A number of factors prompted him to introduce these reforms:

  1. He had to maintain a huge standing army with limited economic resources. The cash
    salary paid to the soldiers was not adequate for their comfortable living. The sultan was unwilling to enhance the salary of the troops and officers due to paucity of resources. Thus, he tried the alternative method of increasing the purchasing power of the tanka by regulation of market and control of prices.
  2. Besides, his numerous expeditions combined with Mongol invasions had exerted a heavy burden on the state treasury. The dislocation of trade and traffic had resulted in the scarcity of food grains and a steep rise in prices of essential commodities. To overcome all these problems related to the economic principle of demand and supply
    and prices, Alauddin regulated the market and fixed prices of all commodities of daily use, from food grains to horses and from the cattle and slaves to foreign articles of luxury. He took special measures to enforce the schedule of prices on all traders and


The entire scheme of market regulation was entrusted to the care of diwan-i-riyasat. For different trades separate markets were set up and each market was placed under a separate shahna.

At Delhi, Alauddin set up three different markets:

  1. One market was meant exclusively for food-grains,
  2. a separate market for horses, cattle and slaves and
  3. a third one for costlier articles such a foreign clothes, silks, perfumes, jewellery etc.

Under the shahnas there were a number of barids, who checked prices, weights and measure and supervised general arrangement of the market and sent daily reports to the sultan. The shahna-i-mandi kept a daftar or a register of licensed dealers.

Difficulties in Implementing the Reforms:

There were certain problems, which were likely to occur due to such stringent regulations and control of prices:

  1. As the sultan had reduced the prices of all commodities, it was possible that merchants might refuse to sell their goods at those prices or they might create artificial scarcity and blame it on the price control.
  2. Brokers lost their employment because prices had been permanently fixed. Having lost their trade, they might instigate the traders to create difficulties.
  3. Problems could also arise due to natural calamities such as droughts and famines.
  4. The merchants might outwardly agree to conform to these regulations but they might defraud the people by under-weighing, under measuring or substitution of a lower grade article for a higher grade one.


To meet these difficulties, Alauddin issued detailed regulations. Merchants were classified broadly into two categories:

  1. the importers, who supplied the demands of local markets and
  2. wholesalers and retailers, who had their shops in the market and dealt with the customers.

Descriptive lists of merchants of both categories for each trade were prepared. Each one of the merchants was asked to apply for the trading license. These merchants were required to give an undertaking that they would bring the required commodities in sufficient quantity at the proper time and to sell them at the prices fixed by the government. Once they gave satisfactory undertaking, licenses were issued to them.

Costly and rare articles such as fine silks, woolens, brocades, cosmetics etc. could be purchased only by special permits.

Alauddin inflicted severe punishment on those who violated the rules.

Measures to Implement the Regulations:

  1. In order to have a regular supply of food grains, all peasants of the Doab region and the country to a distance of 200 miles were ordered to pay land revenue in kind.
  2. Further, they were ordered to sell their surplus grains to registered merchants at the rate fixed by the government.
  3. To guard against scarcity, in case of failure of crops due to famines and droughts, Alauddin ordered grain to be stored in state granaries. Hoarding was strictly forbidden. During emergency rationing was introduced.
  4. Merchants were severely punished if even the slightest irregularity was detected.

Although in the beginning traders and merchants resisted the market regulations and price control, later they reconciled themselves to low profits and obeyed the regulations as long as Alauddin lived. The sultan assured the traders and merchants certain privileges and facilities also. Though their margin of profit was reduced, there was no apprehension of loss in any contingency. The sultan advanced them loans for purchase of commodities and if the cost price was more than fixed price for sale, the trader was allowed a certain percentage on the total sale and the entire loss of the transaction was borne by the state. Copies of schedules of prices were supplied to shahnas, barids, traders and merchants and diwan-i-riyasat.

The market regulations were, in all probability, enforced in the capital city and its neighbourhood . These were not in force throughout the empire. Even if Alauddin desired to implement these regulations throughout the empire, lack of proper and adequate agencies might have prevented him to do so. These market regulations and price control have been regarded by some historians as ‘marvels of medieval statesmanship’. The sultan was able to check cheating and profiteering, but in the long run trade and agriculture suffered. He did not allow any rise in prices. Due to his stern measures Alauddin could enforce order in the market. The scheme of market regulations and price control died with him. His successors did not have the will or the mechanism to implement them.


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