Delhi Sultanate

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Sultanate of Delhi
दिल्ली सलतनत





Delhi Sultanate under various dynasties.
Capital Delhi
Languages Persian (official)[1]
Religion Sunni Islam
Government Sultanate
 -  1206–1210 Qutb-ud-din Aibak (first)
 -  1517–1526 Ibrahim Lodi (last)
Historical era Middle Ages
 -  Independence 12 June[2] 1206
 -  Battle of Amroha 20 December 1305
 -  eagle
 -  Battle of Panipat 21 April 1526
History of the Turkic peoples
History of the Turkic peoples
Pre-14th century
Turkic Khaganate 552–744
  Western Turkic
  Eastern Turkic
Avar Khaganate 564–804
Khazar Khaganate 618–1048
Old Great Bulgaria 632–668
  Volga Bulgaria
Turgesh Khaganate 699–766
Uyghur Khaganate 744–840
Kara-Khanid Khanate 840–1212
  Western Kara-Khanid
  Eastern Kara-Khanid
Pecheneg Khanates
Kimek Khanate
Kipchak Khanates
Oghuz Yabgu State
Shatuo Dynasties 923–979
  Later Tang Dynasty
  Later Jin Dynasty
  Later Han Dynasty (Northern Han)
Ghaznavid Empire 963–1186
Seljuq Empire 1037–1194
Khwarazmian Empire 1077–1231
Seljuq Sultanate of Rum 1092–1307
Delhi Sultanate 1206–1526
  Mamluk Dynasty
  Khilji Dynasty
  Tughlaq Dynasty
Cairo Sultanate 1250–1517
  Bahri Dynasty

The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived dynasties, Delhi-based kingdoms or sultanates, the first three of which were of Turkic origin, the fourth was the Sayyid and the last was the Lodi. The sultanates ruled from Delhi 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty. The five dynasties were the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90); the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320); the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414); the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51); and the Afghan Lodi dynasty (1451–1526).

Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a former slave of Muhammad Ghori, was the first sultan of Delhi and his dynasty conquered large areas of northern India. Afterwards the Khilji dynasty was also able to conquer most of central India, but both failed to unite the Indian subcontinent. The sultanate is also noted for being one of the few states to repeatedly defeat the Mongol Empire.[3]

The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion of cultures left lasting syncretic monuments in architecture, music, literature, religion and clothing. It is surmised that the Urdu language (literally meaning (language of the) "horde" or "camp" in various Turkic dialects) came into existence during this period as a result of the intermingling of the local speakers of Sanskritic Prakrits with immigrants speaking Persian, Turkic and Arabic under the Muslim rulers. The Delhi Sultanate is the only Indo-Islamic empire to have enthroned one of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultana (1236–1240). In 1526 the Delhi Sultanate was absorbed by the emerging Mughal Empire.



Muhammad Ghori (d. 1206) had extended his state southwards at the expense of the Ghaznavids as far as Lahore and much of Rajasthan and the Punjab and appointed Qutub-ud-din Aibak as governor of this part of his realm. A slave of Cuman-Kipchak origin, he proclaimed independence after the death of his patron and ruled from Delhi.[4] His line is therefore known as the Slave (Mamluk) Dynasty on account of his origin. Aibak began the construction of Qutub Minar, which was completed by Iltutmish, his successor and son-in-law. Aibak's legitimate successor was his son Aramshah, but the nobles preferred Iltutmish, the Subedar of Badaun. Iltutmish was the most able ruler of the Mamluk Sultanate. He trebled the exchequer during his reign. He was followed by Razia Sultana, his daughter, who was a good administrator and the first female sovereign in India. Her rumored relationship with a Sidi adviser, Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut, as he continued to rise in rank, gave her nobles an excuse to revolt against her. After Yaqut was killed and Razia imprisoned, she later married Altunia (the Governor of Bhatinda), but she was killed by her nobles after 3 and half years. Balban succeeded her and ruled until 1286 CE. A great Sultan, he was a Sufi devotee and highly regarded their Saints; many a Sufi mystic settled in his sultanate, though only one of them rose to full ascendancy over him.[citation needed] Faced with revolts by conquered territories and rival families in the turmoil for succession after his death, the Mamluk dynasty came to an end in 1290.


The Khalji dynasty were the second Muslim dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate. The slave rulers laid a firm foundation to the Delhi Sultanate. Naturally Muslims from territories bordering to western northern India migrated to join other Muslim settlers.

The first ruler of this dynasty was Jalal-ud-din Firoz Shah Khilji. He was a weak ruler and adopted a lenient policy towards the Mongols. He got one of his daughters married to tulugh Khan, the Mongol leader.He was killed and succeeded by his nephew Ali Gurshap, who took the title of Ala-ud-din. He became the Sultan of Delhi in 1296 CE. He brought Gujarat Malwa and Mewar under his rule. He was the most able ruler in the Khalji dynasty. He introduced a free market policy in which he decreased the price of all essential items needed in daily life. The customs policies of Ala-ud-din Khalji helped double the exchequer. According to Zia-ud-din Barani, a scholar in the sultan's court said that "no gold, silver, tankas, jitals, on any superflous commodities, which are the causes of a rebellion, are to be found in the houses of Hindus." After Ala-ud-din's death, there was a war of succession amongst his sons. The last Khilji ruler was Khusrau Malik. He was weak ruler and he was killed by Ghiasuddin Tughlaq in AD 1320 and thus, the Tughluqs captured the throne of Delhi.


The Tughlaq dynasty lasted for close to a hundred years. During this period, many parts of India, such as the states in southern India became independent. It produced two powerful Sultans, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Firoz Shah Tughlaq. Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq (1320–1325), an efficient military commander, was the first ruler of the dynasty. He was succeeded by Jauna Khan, who took the title of Muhammad bin Tughlaq and became the most able ruler of the Tughluq dynasty. He became the Sultan in 1325 CE. His empire covered the regions from Peshawar in the North to Madurai in the South and from Sindh in the west to Assam in the East. Muhammad made attempts at improving the administration of his vast empire. He tried to reform the currency. He minted new copper coins. He ordered that copper coins should be used in place of the gold and silver coins. However, there was no control over the minting of the copper coins. This created a lot of confusion in the transactions. Therefore, Muhammad made arrangements for exchanging gold and silver coins against copper coins. This put a tremendous strain on the government treasury. He had to take back this scheme. He refused to accept the title of Emperor though he expanded his rule to the peninsula. He doubled the exchequer and shifted his capital in 1326 from Delhi to Daulatabad. He was a man of ideas, but he lacked the skill required for putting these into practice. Even though his ideas were good, they proved unsuccessful.That is why he is known as a confused genius. The last few years of his reign witnessed turmoil and rebellions everywhere. His empire began to disintegrate during his own life-time. He died in 1351 CE and was succeeded by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), who was very successful as a reformer. Administration was the best under the Tughlaqs. The last ruler of this dynasty was Mohammad Tughlaq.


The Sayyid dynasty ruled Delhi Sultanate in India from 1414 to 1451. They succeeded the Tughlaq dynasty and ruled the Sultanate until they were displaced by the Lodi dynasty.


The Lodi Dynasty was a Pashtun dynasty that was the last Delhi Sultanate. Sikandar Lodi who ruled from AD 1489-1517 was one of the better known rulers of this dynasty. The dynasty founded by Bahlul Khan Lodi ruled from 1451 to 1526. The last ruler of this dynasty, Ibrahim Lodi was defeated and killed by Babur in the first Battle of Panipat on April 20, 1526.

Monetary system[edit]

A coin of Muhammad bin Tughlaq

In the first half of the 14th century, the Sultanate introduced a monetary economy in the provinces (sarkars) and districts (parganas) that had been established and founded a network of market centres, through which the traditional village economies were both exploited and stimulated to be drawn into the wider culture. State revenues remained based on a successful agriculture, which induced Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325–51) to have village wells dug, to offer seed to the peasants, and to encourage cash crops like sugarcane.[5]

Mongol invasion and the fall of the Sultanate[edit]

Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the thirteenth century. However, the invasion of Timur in 1398 significantly weakened the Delhi Sultanate. It revived briefly under the Lodis before it was conquered by the Mughal emperor Babur in 1526.

The mausoleum of Qutub ud Din Aibak in Anarkali, Lahore, Pakistan.

The last Lodi ruler, Ibrahim Lodi, was greatly disliked by his court and subjects. Upon the death of his father Sikander Lodi, he quashed a brief rebellion led by some of his nobles who wanted his younger brother Jalal Khan to be the Sultan. After seizing the throne, by having Jalal Khan murdered, he never really did succeed in pacifying his nobles. Subsequently Daulat Khan, the governor of Punjab and Alam Khan, his uncle, sent an invitation to Babur, the ruler of Kabul to invade Delhi.

By way of superior generalship, vast experience in warfare, effective strategy and appropriate use of artillery, Babur won the first Battle of Panipat (April 1526), in which Ibrahim Lodi was killed on the battlefield. Babur subsequently occupied Agra and Delhi and the new Mughal dynasty was to rule Delhi until 1857.


Map of Delhi Sultanate.

Mamluk/Slave dynasty[edit]

Khalji dynasty[edit]

Tughlaq dynasty[edit]

Delhi Sultanate under Tughluq dynasty.

Sayyid dynasty[edit]

  • Khizr Khan (1414–1421)
  • Mubarak Shah (1421–1434)
  • Muhammad Shah (1434–1445)
  • Alam Shah (1445–1451)

Lodi dynasty[edit]

Delhi Sultanate during Babur's invasion.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Arabic and Persian Epigraphical Studies - Archaeological Survey of India". Retrieved 2010-11-14. 
  2. ^ Peter Jackson, The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, (2003), Cambridge University Press. p.28. ISBN 0521543290
  3. ^ Pradeep Barua The State at War in South Asia, p. 29
  4. ^ Bruce R. Gordon. "Nomads of the Steppe". Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  5. ^ Braudel 1984, pp 96f, 512ff
  6. ^ Tughlaq Shahi Kings of Delhi: Chart The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 369..