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The Khalji Revolution: Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measures: Part I

The Khalji Revolution: Alauddin Khalji: Conquests and territorial expansion, agrarian and economic measures: Part I

The Khalji Revolution:

  • The Khalji Revolution marked the overthrow of the Slave Dynasty and the establishment of the rule of Khalji Dynasty (1290-1320) in the reign of Delhi Sultanate. It was not merely a change in the dynasty but the very nature of the state was poised for a revolution under the Khaljis.
  • Background:
    • After the death of Balban in 1286, there was again confusion in Delhi for some time.
      • Balban’s chosen successor, Prince Mahmud, had died earlier in a battle with the Mongols.
      • A second son, Bughra Khan, preferred to rule over Bengal and Bihar although he was invited by the nobles at Delhi to assume the throne.
      • Hence, a grandson of Balban was installed in Delhi. But he was too young inexperienced to cope with the situation.
    • There had been a good deal of resentment and opposition at the attempt of the Turkish nobles to monopolize high offices. Many non-Turks, such as the Khaljis, had come to India at the time of the Ghurid invasion. They had never received sufficient recognition in Delhi.
    • Balban’s own example of setting aside the sons of Nasiruddin Mahmud had demonstrated that a successful general could ascend the throne by ousting the scions of an established dynasty, provided he had sufficient support in the nobility and the army.
  • For these reasons, a group of Khalji nobles led by Jalaluddin Khalji, who had been the warden of the marches in the northwest and had fought many successful engagements against the Mongols, overthrew the incompetent successors of Balban in 1290.
    • The Khalji rebellion was welcomed by the non-Turkish sections in the nobility.
    • The Khaljis who were of a mixed Turkish-Afghan origin, did not exclude the Turks from high offices, but the rise of the Khaljis to power ended the Turkish monopoly of high offices.
  • It was a revolution because:
    • Khaljis came to power not on the support of either nobility or Ulemma but by the power of their sword.
    • Khalji revolution is considered as a revolt of the lower segment of society against the established nobility.
    • The Khaljis were not considered pure Turks. Though they were Turkish tribe but having been long lived in Afghanistan, had adopted some Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in the Delhi court. The success of the Khaljis in establishing a dynasty was a success for non-Turks.
    • It was the rejection of the racial policy of early rulers as Khaljis opened the gate of the nobility class not simply to non-Turks but also to Indian Muslims. The social basis of the ruling class broadened.
    • Historian Barani says that with the accession of the Khaljis, the empire passed from the hands of the Turks.
    • The Khalji revolution was revolution because several new administrative measures that were introduced. For example: market regulations which fixed the prices of different commodities. Also, new administrative machinery comprising the Shuhna and the Barids was set up to oversee the market regulations. Similarly, the land revenue administration was reorganized by introducing measurement system.
    • The Khaljis had a concept of kingship where the power was centralized in the hand of Sultan and there was no other power centre in the administration. The Sultan need not to act under the guidance of Ulemas.
    • But the Khalji revolution had negative sides as well. It gave too much emphasis over the military aspect (impetus to militarism) of the government and there was vigorous expansion (Khalji imperialism).
    • In spite of limitations, Khalji revolution implied the beginning of a new era.

Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-1296):

  • He ascended the throne after overthrowing the incompetent successors of Balban in 1290.
  • During his six year reign (1290–96), He faced numerous internal and external foes:
    • Some of Balban’s officers revolted due to his assumption of power and the subsequent sidelining of nobility and commanders serving the Mamluk dynasty. Jalaluddin suppressed the revolt and executed some commanders.
    • He led an unsuccessful expedition against Ranthambhor and repelled a Mongol force on the banks of the Sind River with the help of his nephew Juna Khan (Alauddin Khilji).
  • His approaches to the State:
    • He followed liberal, humanitarian, benevolent and beneficent approach.
    • Jalaluddin Khalji tried to mitigate some of the harsh aspects of Balban’s rule. He did not follow a policy of narrow exclusivism. Many Turks and officers of Balban’s time who visited Jalaluddin were given important posts and iqtas.
      • Even Malik Chhajju Kishli Khan, a nephew of Balban, was appointed governor of Kara which was considered one of the most fertile and prosperous tracts. Nor were drastic punishments meted out when Malik Chhajju rebelled, marched on Delhi, and was defeated.
      • Thus, He tried to gain the goodwill of the nobility by policy of tolerance and avoiding harsh punishments.
    • He put forward by his actions the concept of a new type of a state, one which was based fundamentally on the good-will and support of the people of all communities, one which was basically beneficent and looked after the welfare of its subjects.
      • He was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanat to clearly put forward the view that the state should be based on the willing support of the governed, and that since the large majority of the people in India were Hindus, the state in India could not be a truly Islamic state.
    • Although Jalaluddin Khalji was a pious Muslim, he negated the demand of some Ulemas. e.g. demand of conversion of Hindus.
      • In a discussions with his close associate, Ahmad Chap, he defended the policy of allowing Hindus to worship idols, preach their beliefs, and observe practices which were the hall-mark of infidelity. Likewise, the Hindus were allowed to live a life of ease and splendour and honour even at Delhi, the centre of Islam.
      • There is an evidence that Hindus moved in procession beating drums nearby his palace, for immersion of images in Yamuna. He never stopped it.
    • Thus, unlike Balban, he refused to identify sovereignty with self-pride and tyranny. In the language of Barani, he believed in a policy of “not harming even an ant“.
      • He didn’t claim sovereignty on the strength of racial superiority.
    • According to him, while by a policy of terror, fear of the government and its prestige could be established in the hearts of the people for a short time, it would mean discarding (true) Islam.
    • He did neither have will nor resources to undertake any large-scale expansionist programme.
    • However, many people, including his supporters, considered this to be a weak policy which was not suited to the times.
      • Alauddin Khalji, (1296-1316) who ascended the throne after treacherously murdering Jalaluddin Khalji, reversed this policy and did not accept the liberal, humanitarian precepts of Jalaluddin.
    • Nevertheless, the principles enunciated by Jalaluddin had a long term relevance. In one form or another, they had to be faced by almost all his successors. Thus, Jalaluddin’s reign has a long term significance which is often ignored.

Allauddin Khalji (1296-1316):

  • He came to the throne by treacherously murdering his uncle and father-in-law, Jalaluddin Khalji.
  • His approach to state:
    • He set up a highly centralized government.
    • The Sultan started considering himself a representative of God or “Shadow of God”.
    • He did not accept Jalaluddin’s theory of benevolence and humanitarianism, considering them to the unsuitable to the times, and signifying a weak government.
      • He adhered more to Balban’s theory of fear being the basis of good government, a theory which he applied to the nobles as well as to the ordinary people.
    • After the outbreak of a couple of rebellions early in his reign, including one by his nephew, Aqat Khan, he decided to take harsh measures to keep the nobles under control.
      • When some of the Mongol soldiers who had participated in the campaign launched against Gujarat rebelled against the policy of the state claiming 4/5 of the war spoils, Alauddin imprisoned their wives and children living at Delhi, a practice which Barani says was a novel one.
    • By the time Alauddin Khalji came to throne, the position of the Delhi sultnat was fairly well consolidated. This emboldened the sultan to take series of internal reform and experiments, aimed at improving the administration, strengthening the army, strengthening the land revenue system and providing welfare of citizen.
    • However, Alauddin accepted Jalaluddin Khalji’s contention that a truely Islamic state could not be set up in the specific conditions obtaining in India.
      • In his discussions with Qazi Mughis of Delhi, as reported by Barani, he asserted that splendour and show, and award of punishments not sanctioned by sharia or the Holy Law were inescapable in India. In fact, he went so far as to assert, “I do not know what is lawful or unlawful according to shara. Whatever I consider necessary for the state or for its welfare, I decree.”
      • Barani sadly concludes that Alauddin was convinced that matters concerning the state and administration were independent of the rules and orders of the sharia, and that while the former pertained to kings alone, the latter had been assigned to qazis and muftis (i.e. those concerned with justice in the courts).
    • During Alauddin Khalji’s reign, the non-Turks were no longer kept back, and forged ahead.
      • This was the reason why Alauddin was able to choose, and promote to the top, many non-Turks such as Zafar Khan and Nusrat Khan, and later Malik Kafur, a non-Turk slave who had been captured in Gujarat.
      • Malik Nayak, a Hindu who had been governor of Samana and Sunam, was given command of an army with Muslims officers serving under him, which inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mongols.
  • Allauddin administrative reforms/regulations:
    • Regulation-1:
      • Revocation of all grants e.g. Inams, Waqf, Milkh and Idrarat pension.
      • Instructions to officials to extort money from nobles and people.
        • Almost all the nobles of Jalaluddin’s time, whom Alauddin had won over to his side by the lure of gold and positions, were uprooted, and their accumulated wealth confiscated.
      • Alauddin Khalji hearkened back to Balban’s belief—one which the historian Barani shared, that the people should not be left enough means to harbour thoughts of rebellion. As a part of this policy he ordered that all charitable lands, i.e. lands assigned in waqf or inam, should be confiscated.
      • The idea was to force them to work for livelihood i.e. to engage them, So that they don’t have time to think of revolt.
      • Barani pointed that Alauddin Khalji’s agrarian reforms were also a part of this policy of reducing the people, i.e. the Hindus to a position of destitution in order to avoid rebellions.
    • Regulation-2:
      • Creation of network of spies.
      • He revived Balban’s system of spies who kept him informed of all developments, even those in the privacy of the houses of the nobles.
      • functions of spies were to:
        • provide information about activities of nobles.
        • provide information about state events.
        • provide information about people’s activities in market places.
    • Regulation-3:
      • Wine drinking was also forbidden. However, Alauddin admitted to the Chief Qazi that buying and selling of wine did not stop.
      • cause behind this regulation is that he considered drinking as reason for the revolts.
    • Regulation-4:
      • The nobles were forbidden to associate with each other, or hold convivial parties. In fact, even for forming marriage alliances they had to seek the permission of the Sultan.
  • Military reform:
    • Alauddin Khilji maintained a strong and huge standing army to safeguard his empire.
    • He introduced the system of branding of horses (dagh) and maintenance of descriptive register of soldiers (huliya) to prevent false musters and corrupt practices.
    • Alauddin abolished the Jagir system and paid the salaries in cash.
    • He fixed the pay of soldiers at 234 tankas a year, with an additional 78 tankas for a soldier maintaining two horses.
    • Ariz-i-Mumalik was in charge of the appointment of soldiers.

Allauddin’s Conquests and territorial expansion:

  • After ‘the death of Iltutmish in 1235 the process of expansion of the boudaries of Delhi Sultanate came to a halt. Following this for nearly a half century all efforts of the Sultans of Delhi were geared towards consolidating early territorial gains by strengthening the fiscal and administrative base of the Sultanate. The next phase of territorial expansion, therefore, began with the opening of the fourteenth century under the Khaljis.
  • Alauddin’s administrative and economic measures had helped consolidation as well as widen the base of the Sultanate. The greater openness on the part of the Khaljis in recruiting as officials, administrators, and soldiers, other elements in addition to Turks, i.e. Indian Muslims and Hindus, and internal restructuring of the administration, created conditions for the rapid territorial expansion of the sultanat.
  • The expansion took place in several phases:
    • In the first phase, the areas not far from Delhi, such as Gujarat, Rajasthan and Malwa were brought under the control of Delhi.
    • In the second phase, the principalities in modern Maharashtra and the Deccan were raided, and compelled to accept Delhi’s vassalage.
      • No attempt, however, was made during this phase to bring them under the direct control of the Delhi sultans.
    • The third phase, which began during the last years of Alauddin’s reign, and climaxed during the reign of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq’s reign (1320-24), saw the extention of central control over the entire Deccan. Bengal was also brought under control once again.
  • West and Central India:
    • Gujarat (1299): It was the first project of territorial expansion under Alauddin. He was attracted by the wealth of Gujarat whose flourishing trade had always lured invaders.
      • Army was jointly commanded by two of Alauddin’s best army generals, Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan. Gujarat was an easy prey, was plundered, capital Anhilwara was sacked and Alp Khan was made governor.
    • Malwa(1305) : fort of Mandu was captured. Ain -ul-Mulk was appointed as governor and he brought Ujjain, Dhar and Chadderi under his control.
    • Siwana and Jalor was also annexed.
  • North-West and North India:
    • Multan: Multan expedition was not an act of territorial expansion but formed part of the policy of consolidation. Surviving member of Jalaluddin’s family had fled to Multan. Arkali Khan was made prisoner. Multan once again came under the control of Delhi.
    • Ranthambhor : In 1300, Alauddin sent Ulugh Khan to march against Ranthambhor ruled by Rai Harmir. Alauddin had to personally take the command of the campaign. The siege lasted for over six months. Ultimately, the women inside the fort performed jauhar and Hamir Dev died fighting.
    • Chittor : In pursuance of the same policy, Alauddin attacked the kingdom of Chittor in 1303. After several assaults, the ruler of Chittor suddenly sent an offer of surrender to the Sultan on his own. Later, the fort was bestowed upon Maldeo, a son of the sister of the earlier ruler of Chittor, who remained loyal to Delhi till the end of Alauddin’s reign.
  • Deccan and Southward expansion:
    • Devagiri: in 1296, during governorship of Kara, Alauddin already plundered Devagiri.
      • in 1306-7, due to to immediate cause of not paying tribute, alauddin sent Malik Kafur against Rai Ram Chandra Dev of Devagiri. Ainul Mulk Multani and Alp Khan provided assistance. Rai Ram Chandra Dev surrendered and made protectorate. Alauddin policy was not to annex but to amass as much wealth as possible. Ram Chandra Dev was accorded great honour by the Sultan and restored to the throne of Devagiri in return for the assurance of regular and prompt payment of an annual tribute to the Sultan.
    • Further south: Malik Kafur’s careful handling of the affair of Devagiri enhanced Sultan’s confidence in his abilities as a military general and he decided to entrust him with the responsibility to make forays in the peninsular region in the South.
      • Acquisition of wealth from southern kingdoms and not actual territorial annexation seems to have been the prime motive in sending these expedition.
      • Sirpur and Warangal was also attacked and looted.
      • From Warangal (1310) enormous amount of wealth accumulated but not annexed and made a protectorate state.
      • In 2nd expedition to south, Dwarasamudra and Madura (Capital of Pandyas) : In both case wealth accumulated and made protectorate states.
    • Deccan and southward campaigns had two basic aim:
      • A formal recognition of the authority of Delhi Sultan over these regions.
      • The amassing of maximum wealth at the minimal loss of life.
    • The policy of not annexing the conquered territories but accepting the acknowledgement of the Sultan’s suzerainty speaks of Alauddin’s political sagacity.
    • Amir Khusrau has given details of campaigns against southward kingdoms in his Khazain-ul Fatuh.
    • Within a year of Malik Kafur’s return from Ma’bar, developments in the Deccan called for a review of the policy of non-annexation. After Ram Dev (the ruler of Devagiri) died (1312), his son declared independence. So, Under Mubarak Khalji (the successor of Alauddin) Devagiri was annexed.
  • Allauddin’s effort to deal with Mongol challenge:
    • Mongol invasion of 1297-98 and 1299 was successfully repelled i.e. 1st two conquest was successful.
      • These successes made Allauddin relaxed.
    • But, by the end of 1299 Mongol appeared again and reached straight upto Delhi. Allauddin was taken aback. But, Alluddin showed a brave front and prevented Mongols from entering capital city. Delh was saved but this event was great shock for Allauddin. An able general Zafar Khan was killed during this fight.
      • Now Allauddin paid serious attention to this issue.
      • Strong rampant was created around Delhi as defense, all forts were repaired, strong millitary deployed at Samana and Dipalpur.
      • Large standing army was recruited.
    • In 1303, Mongols appeared again and reached Delhi. But, Allauddin created strong defenceline outside Siri. So, Mongols retreated without fight.
    • In 1305, Mongol appeared again and reached Doab region, bypassing Delhi. Allauddin forces under Malik Nayak defeated Mongols badly.
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