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Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and early Turkish Sultans – Consolidation: The rule of Iltutmish and Balban: Part I

Foundation of Delhi Sultanate and early Turkish Sultans – Consolidation: The rule of Iltutmish and Balban: Part I

  • By the time of Muizzuddin Muhammad’s death in 1206, the Turks had been able to extend their sway upto: Lakhnauti in Bengal, Ajmer and Ranthambor in Rajasthan, upto the boundaries of Ujjain in the south, and Multan and Uchch in Sindh.
  • Empire remained more or less stationary for almost a hundred years. The period from 1206 to 1290 constitutes the formative and the most challenging period in the history of the Delhi Sultanate. The internal and external difficulties faced by the Turks were numerous.
    • Rajput rulers: the efforts of some of the ousted rulers, particularly the Rajput rulers of Rajasthan and Bundelkhand, and neighbouring areas, such as Bayana and Gwaliyar to regain their former possessions. But, Rajputs never came together to try and collectively oust the Turks from India.
    • Internal conflict within nobles:
      • Tussle for supremacy among his three important generals. Yalduz (held Ghazni), Qubacha (held Uchh) and Qutbuddin Aibak (viceroy and over all commander of the army in India).
      • Some of the Turkish rulers tried to carve out their own independent spheres of authority. Thus, Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji and his successors tried to keep Lakhnauti and Bihar free from the control of Delhi.
    • Mongols were another threat started during Iltutmish.
  • Qutbuddin Aibak (AD 1206–1210):
    • Qutbuddin Aibak was a Turkish slave of Muhammad Ghori. After Muhammad Ghori’s death in AD 1206, the control of his Indian possessions was passed on to Qutbuddin Aibak.
    • Aibak was the first independent Muslim ruler of Northern India, the founder of Delhi Sultanate.
    • Aibak had to face many challenges:
      • From Rajputs and other Indian chiefs:
        • The successor of Jaichand, Harishchandra had driven out the Turks from Badayun and Farukhabad. Aibak re-conquered both Badayun and Farukhabad.
      • From other Turks:
        • Tajuddin Yaldauz, the ruler of Ghazni, claimed his rule over Delhi.
        • Nasiruddin Qabacha, the governor of Multan and Uchch aspired for independence.
        • Aibak moved his capital to Lahore. He defeated Yaldauz and occupied Ghazni. But, he failed to suppress Qubacha. Illtutmish completed this task later.
    • Aibak hardly had time to add to the Turkish conquests in India, and died in 1210, on account of a fall from his horse while playing chaugan (medieval polo).
    • But his brief reign is considered significant because it marked the rise of the first independent Turkish ruler in India. Contemporaries praise him for his liberality, beneficence and gallantry. Qutbuddin Aibak was brave, faithful and generous. Due to his generosity he was known as “Lakh Baksh”.
  • Iltutmish :
    • He was a slave of Aibak, succeeded him at Delhi in 1210. He was responsible not only for keeping the Delhi Sultanat together, but made it a well-knit and compact State. He may thus be called the real establisher of what came to be called the Delhi Sultanat.
    • Iltutmish had many difficulties to contend with.
      • He faced the challenge of Aram Shah who had been put up by the Turkish amirs at Lahore. Aram Shah marched on Delhi but was defeated easily by Iltutmish at a battle at Tarain.
      • Some of the Turkish nobles were not prepared to accept Iltutmish’s authority. They went outside Delhi and prepared for rebellion. Iltutmish marched from Delhi, defeated the rebels.
      • According to the contemporary author, Minhaj Siraj, “On several other occasions in different parts of Hindustan, hostilities arose between him and the armies and the Turks.” Iltutmish triumphed over all of them—on account of “Divine help”.
    • Iltutmish’s quarter century reign (1210-1236) was distinguished by a concerted drive to re-establish the Sultanate’s authority on areas that had been lost. In the process, he displayed a great deal of tact, patience, and far-sightedness.
      • Because Large portions of the territories conquered by the Turks had slipped out of control and subjugated Rajput chieftain had ‘withheld tribute and repudiated allegiance’.
      • In Rajputana, the Turks were able to reclaim Ranthambhor, Bayana, Gwalior, Bundelkhand, Malwa and Chanderi. He also raided Bhilsa and Ujjain in Malwa.
    • After Iltutmish brought under his control Delhi and its dependencies including Banaras, Awadh, Badaun and the Siwaliks, The Turkish rule in Hindustan was by this time divided into four portions:
      • Multan and Uchch and Siwistan upto the sea in Sindh under Qubacha
      • Lakhnauti under Khalji maliks
      • Delhi under Iltutmish
      • Lahore which was coveted by Yalduz, Qubacha and Iltutmish and passed under the control of one or the other according to circumstances.
    • Brought back capital to Delhi. Iltutmish effectively suppressed the defiant amirs of Delhi. He separated the Delhi Sultanate from Ghazni, Ghor and Central Asian politics.
      • He can be credited with making Delhi the political, administrative, and cultural centre of Turkish rule in India. Delhi became the refuge for nobles, bureaucrats, scholars, poets and religious divines from Central Asia to escape the Mongol depredations.
    • He subjugated Yalduz and Qubacha and annexed their areas Sind and Multan. by 1228, not only did Iltutmish’s control extend upto the Indus, but the whole of Multan and Sindh upto the sea came under his control. This marked the first phase of Iltutmish’s consolidation of the Delhi Sultanat.
    • After 1225, Itutmish could turn towards the east. Till 1230, IItutmish led two campaign and Bengal and Bihar was brought under his control. But, Bengal and Bihar always remained a difficult charge, and threw off its allegiance to Delhi at the first sign of weakness at the centre.
    • Mongol threat:
      • Mongols appeared on the banks of the Indus in pursuit of Jalduddin Mangbarni. Mangabarni crossed the river Indus and sought asylum from Iltutmish. Iltutmish refused to give him shelter in order to save his empire from onslaught of the Mongols.
      • Iltutmish followed policy of Aloofness towards Mongols. Factors compelled Illtutmish to follow this policy:
        • Iltutmish smelt danger from Mangbarni who might “gain an ascendancy over him and involve him in ruin.”
        • Iltutmish was also aware of the weaknesses of the Sultanate.
      • Minhaj Siraj mentions that Iltutmish led an expedition against Mangbarni but the latter avoided any confrontation and finally left the Indian soil in A.D. 1224.
      • Chengiz Khan is reported to have sent his envoy to Iltutmish’s court. It is difficult to say anything about the Sultan’s response, but so long as Chengiz Khan was alive (d. A.D. 1227), Iltutmish did not adopt an expansionist policy in the north-west region. An understanding of non-aggression against each other might have possibly been arrived at.
    • Iltutmish formed a loyal group of nobles named “Forty” (Turkan-i-Chahalgani).
      • These were Turkish amirs (nobles) who advised and helped the Sultan in administering the Sultanate.
      • This elite corp was very proud of itself. It did not consider even the free amirs, both Turk and Tajik, as being equal to them. Other groups of nobles envied the status and privileges of the members of the “Forty”, but this does not mean that the latter were free from their internal bickering. At the most they united in one principle – to plug entry of non-Turkish persons in the charmed circle as far as possible.
      • The “Forty” tried to retain its political influence over the Sultan who would not like to alienate this group, but at the same time would not surrender his royal privilege of appointing persons of the other groups as officers. Thus, a delicate balance was achieved by Iltutmish which broke down after his death. After the death of Iltutmish, this group assumed great power in its hands. For a few years they decided on the selection of Sultans one after the other.
        • For example, some nobles did not approve the succession of Raziya, because she tried to organize non-Turkish groups as counterweight to the “Forty”.
        • That was one main reason why a number of nobles of this group supported her brother, Rukun-ud-din whom they thought to be incompetent and weak, thereby giving them an opportunity to maintain their position.
        • This spectacle continued during the reign of Nasiruddin Mahmud also, as exemplified by the rise and fall of Immaduddin Raihan, an Indian convert. This episode coincided with the banishment of Balban who was the naib (deputy) of Sultan Mahmud and his subsequent recall.
      • The group was finally eliminated by Balban.
    • Iltutmish also obtained a ‘Letter of Investiture’ in AD 1229 from the Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to gain legitimacy. Thus, Iltutmish’s legal status as an independent sovereign was reaffirmed in the eyes of the Muslims.
      • Under Iltutmish, Delhi Sultanat can be called a truely independent state, not tied up to a foreign sovereign living at Ghazni or Ghur.
    • Iltutmish made a significant contribution in giving shape to administrative institution such as iqtas, army and currency system.
      • He gave the Sultanate two of its basic coins– the silver ‘Tanka’ and the copper ‘Jittal’.
      • To affect greater control over the conquered areas Iltutmish granted iqtas (land assignments in lieu of cash salaries) to his Turkish officers on a large scale.The recipients of “iqtas”called the “iqtadars”collected the land revenue from the territories under them. Out of this they maintained an armed contingent for the service of the state, enforced law and order and met their own expenses.
      • Iltutmish realized the economic potentiality of the Doab and the iqtas were distributed mainly in this region. This secured for Iltutmish the financial and administrative control over one of the most prestigious regions of North India.
    • By his military prowess, pleasing manners and liberality, Iltutmish earned the deep respect and attachment of the people of Delhi to his family, in consequence of which the right of his children to succeed him was accepted. Thus, he set up the first hereditary sovereignty at Delhi.
    • He laid the foundations of an absolutist monarchy that was to serve later as the instrument of a military imperialism under the Khaljis. Aibak outlined the Delhi Sultanate and its sovereign status; litutmish was unquestionably its first king.
  • Raziya (AD 1236–40):
    • Iltutmish nominated Raziya as his successor as he did not consider any of his sons worthy of the throne.
    • But after his death his son Ruknuddin Firoz ascended the throne with the help of army leaders. He was an incompetent ruler. However with the support of the people of Delhi and some military leaders, Raziya soon ascended the throne.
    • She had challenges both internally and externally:
      • The orthodox Muslims resented the enthronement of a woman as a sultan.
      • Added to these problems was that a number of sons of Iltutmish were still alive. They had their own supporters and partisans among the nobles and people of Delhi.
      • The Rajputs, taking advantage of the prevailing confusion and uncertainty had started their offensive against the sultanate.
      • Mongol problem, which was the biggest problem faced by sultans of Delhi sultanate from the time of Illtutmish.
    • But she bravely tried dealing with the problems and left an important mark on the history of Delhi sultanate
    • Contribution of Razia Sultan in Delhi Sultanate:
      • She took measures to deal with rebel noble and consolidate her position. It tried to provide stability in sultanate.
      • Justification of claim to the throne: Razia justified her claim to the throne despite being a woman by recalling that in his life time, her father Iltutmish had nominated her as his successor in preference to his sons.
      • Use of Diplomacy:
        • The hostile provincial governors of Badaun, Hansi, Lahore and Multan ably supported by wazir Junaidi, who felt isolated and ignored, mustered their troops near Delhi.
        • Realizing the difficulty of organizing a matching army, Raziya avoided a military encounter with the rebels and instead resorted to diplomacy. She entered into a secret alliance with Salari and Kabir Khan. Thereafter she spread rumours that a number of rebels had joined her.
        • This caused suspicion and distrust among the rebel chiefs who withdrew from the capital quietly.
        • Raziya’s stratagem succeeded and her prestige was enhanced. The provincial governors submitted to her authority.
      • Distribution of important offices to the supporters:
        • The naib wazir, Muhazzab-ud-din was put in charge of the wazarat.
        • Her partisan Kabir Khan was appointed to the governorship of Lahore.
        • Tughril Khan, the governor of Lakhnauti (Bengal) was rewarded with vice-royalty for not joining the rebels.
      • Breaking the monopoly of the Turkish nobles:
        • She adopted the policy of appointing non-Turkish nobles to higher posts.
        • A number of Indian Muslims were appointed as qazis.
        • An Abyssinian, Jamal-ud-din Yaqut was elevated to the position of amir-a-khur (master of the horses). The other accused her of violating feminine modesty and being too friendly to Yaqut.
      • As a result of these measures, according to Minhaj-us-Siraj, “From Debal to Lakhnauti, all the maliks and amirs manifested their obedience and submitted.”
      • Campaign against Rajput: Raziya also organized a campaign against the Rajputs. Ranthambhor was besieged and captured.
      • Tried to establish an independent and absolute monarchy: Like her father Iltutmish, Raziya was determined to assert the authority and establish an independent and absolute monarchy.
      • Efficient governance:
        • Raziya governed the sultanate in a befitting manner. Bold and courageous, she gave up purdha (veil), held open court, listened to the grievances of her subjects and exercised general control over the administrative departments.
        • In battles, Raziya rode at the head of her armies. Thus, she proved her ability, love of justice and capacity for hard work.
        • According to Minhaj-i-Siraj, she was “sagacious, just, beneficent, the patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice, the cherisher of her subjects, and of warlike talent, and endowed with all the admirable attributes and qualifications necessary for a king.
        • Razia established schools, academies, centers for research, and public libraries. Hindu works in the sciences, philosophy, astronomy, and literature were reportedly studied in schools and colleges.
        • Razia is said to have pointed out that the spirit of religion was more important than its parts, and that even the Islamic prophet Muhammad spoke against overburdening the non-Muslims.
      • Avoided conflict with Mongol:
        • Raziya followed policy of appeasement to avoid conflict with Mongol.
        • Her discouraging response to anti-Mongol alliance, proposed by Hasan Qarlugh of Bamyan is indicator of her appeasement policy.
    • But in spite of being a capable sultan she largely failed in dealing with internal problem. She could not win over rebels and finally lost her life.
    • Reason for her failure:
      • Being a woman was an important cause of her failure: According to Minhaj-us-siraj though she had all the qualities of a king, she was not born of right sex and so in the estimation of men all her virtues were useless.
      • Her becoming sultan was against the tradition of Islam:
        • Turkish Chiefs ware against her as they considered it a great humiliation to work under a woman.
        • Perhaps it was the first case in the Islamic history under a monarchical form of government. This practice was far ahead of the times.
      • In place of winning favour of her opponent, she annoyed them all the more:
        • Razia firmness, and desire to exercise power directly became the major cause of the dissatisfaction of the Turkish nobles with her.
        • the recruitment of Yaqut and few other non-Turks to important posts incensed nobility. The nobility realized that, though a woman, Raziya was not willing to be a puppet in their hands, therefore the nobles started revolting against her
        • She was made captive by Tabarhind governor Altunia. In spite of her marrying with Altunia to win his support, she could not win over rebels and finally lost her life.
      • The tragic end of Razia demonstrated the growing power of the Chihalgani Turkish nobles.
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