Ghiyas ud din Balban
|Sultan of Delhi|
|Buried||Tomb of Balban, Mehrauli|
|Successor||Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (grandson)|
Nasiruddin Bughra Khan
|Dynasty||Mamluk dynasty of Delhi|
Ghiyas ud din Balban (reigned: 1266–1287) (Urdu: غیاث الدین بلبن) was the ninth sultan of the Mamluk dynasty. Ghyias ud Din was the vizier and heir of the last Shamsi sultan, Nasir ud-din. He reduced the power of the treacherous nobility and heightened the stature of the sultan. In spite of having only few military achievements, he was the most powerful ruler of the sultanate between Shams ud-din Iltutmish and Alauddin Khilji.
A born Turk, Balban quickly rose to power under Shams ud din and his successors, being one of the forty nobles and eventually the Sultan's vizier. After the Sultan Nasir ud din's death (possibly of Balban's design), he was made Sultan Ghiyas ud din. He elevated the position of the sultan in the Sassanid fashion and crushed the power of the forty nobles so that it could not usurp his rule.
Ghiyas made several conquests, some as vizier. He routed the Mewats that harassed Delhi and reconquered Bengal, all while successfully facing the Mongol threat, a struggle that spent his son and heir's life. So it came to pass that upon his death in 1287 his grandson Qaiqubad was nominated sultan, undermining the achievements of his grandfather.
In spite of having only a few military achievements, Ghiyas ud-din made civil and military reforms that earned him the position of the strongest ruler between Shams ud-din Iltutmish and the later Alaudding Khilji, whose military achievements rest on the order established within the sultanate by Ghiyas ud din Balban.
He was son of a Central Asian Turkic noble of the Ilbari tribe, but as a child he - and others from his tribe - was captured by Mongols and sold as a slave at Ghazni. Prof K.Ali (1950, reprint 2006)"A new history of Indo-Pakistan". He was sold to Khwaja Jamal ud-din of Basra, a Sufi who nicknamed him Baha ud din. The Khwaja brought him to Delhi where he and the other slaves were bought by Sultan Shams ud-din Iltutmish, himself a captured Ilbari Turk in origin, in 1232 CE.
Balban was first appointed as a simple water carrier, but quickly rose to the position of Khasdar (king's personal attendant) by the Sultan. He became one of the most notable of the forty Turkic nobles of Delhi, or the Chalissa. During the reign of Razia Sultan, he was the amir-i Shikar or lord of the hunt, a position of some importance at the time, having military and political responsibilities. After her overthrow, he made rapid strides in the subsequent reigns, earning the fief (Quta') of Rewari under Bahram Shah, and later became the Jagir (lord) of Hansi, which was an important fief.
Balban was instrumental in the overthrow of Masud Shah, installing Nasiruddin Mahmud as Sultan and himself as his Vizier from 1246 to 1266, after Mahmud had already married one of Balban's daughters. Balban also installed Kishlu Khan, his younger brother, as lord chamberlain (Amir-i Hajib) and appointed his cousin, Sher Khan, to the Jagir of Lahore and Bhatinda.
Balban's position did not go unnoticed by the other nobles and there was some resentment. His main antagonist was Imad ud-din Raihan, who in works written after Balban's time, is characterized as a Hindu Murtad (who revoked Islam), although some claim him to be of Turkic origin as well. Imad ud-din managed to persuade the Sultan that Balban was an usurper. Balban and his kin were dismissed and even challenged in combat. However, negotiations between Balban and the Sultan had brought to the dismission of Imad ud din at 1254, and Balban was reinstalled.
Balban had several military achievements during his vizierhood, first raising the Mongol siege of Uch under Masud Shah in 1246. When the ruler of Bengal, Tughan Khan, had revoked the authority of Delhi and invaded its territory of Avadh, Balban sent his own slave, Tamur Khan, to reconquer the country, a campaign which proved successful until Tughan's heir again asserted independence until his death in 1257. Bengal was than conquered by the governor of Kara, Arslan Khan, who asserted independence as well. It was brought back under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate at Tughril Khan's rise during Balban's reign.
One of the famous military campaigns of Balbun was against Meo, or Mayo, the people of Mewat who used to plunder the people of Delhi even in the day light. The distress caused by the Meo is well described in Barni's words:
- The turbulence of the Mewatis had increased, and their strength had grown in the neighbourhood of Dehli, through the dissolute habits and negligence of the elder sons of Shams ud-dín, and the incapacity of the youngest, Násiru-d dín. At night they used to come prowling into the city, giving all kinds of trouble, depriving the people of their rest; and they plundered the country houses in the neighbourhood of the city. In the neighbourhood of Dehli there were large and dense jungles, through which many roads passed. The disaffected in the Doáb, and the outlaws towards Hindustan grew bold and took to robbery on the highway, and they so beset the roads that caravans and merchants were unable to pass. The daring of the Mewatis in the neighbourhood of Dehli was carried to such an extent that the western gates of the city were shut at afternoon prayer, and no one dared to go out of the city in that direction after that hour, whether he travelled as a pilgrim or with the display of a sovereign. At afternoon prayer the Mewatis would often come to the Sar-hauz, and assaulting the water-carriers and the girls who were fetching water, they would strip them and carry off their clothes. These daring acts of the Mewatis had caused a great ferment in Dehli.
He took upon himself the task of chastising the turbulent people of Mewat, the region south of Delhi. In order to deal with the Mewatis, who dwelled in the Jungles, Balban had large portions of wood cut down and killed a large number of Hindu men and enslaved their women and children. He then build outposts on the roads (we are told that the guards of the outposts were Afghan mercenaries) and marched his armies to clear out the routes, in order to re-establish trade and pilgrimage.
He also laid siege to the fortress of Ranathmbhore, which rebelled against Delhi after the death of Shams ud din Iltutmish. After a long siege, the fort was conquered. In 1247, Balban suppressed a rising of the Chandela Chief of Kalinjar. In 1251, he led an expedition against the ruler of Gwalior.
Since Sultan Nasiruddin did not have male heir, after his death, Balban declared himself the Sultan of Delhi. Balban ascended the throne in 1266 at the age of sixty with the title of Sultan Ghyasuddin Balban.
During his reign, Balban ruled with an iron fist. He broke up the 'Chahalgani', a group of the forty most important nobles in the court. Balban wanted to make sure everyone was loyal to the crown by establishing an efficient espionage system, in the style of the Umayyad Barid. Sultan Balban had a strong and well-organized spy system. Balban placed secret reporters and news-writers in every department. The spies were independent authority only answerable to Sultan.
Furthermore, Balban had his nobles punished most harshly for any mishap, including severe treatment of their own slaves. One of his nobles, Malik Bakbak, the Muqta' of Badaun, was punished for ordering
one of his slaves to be beaten to death, apparently when being drunk. Ghiyasudding, heeded by the slave's widow, ordered to scourge the noble to death in the presence of the widow. The spies who failed to report the incident to the king were hung in the city's gates. About his justice Dr. Ishwari Prasad remarked "So great was the dread of Sultan's inexorable justice that no one dared to ill-treat his servant and slaves."
Balban re-organised the military against the threat of the Mongols. He re-organised the revenues of the Iqatadars, which have been passed on to the offsprings of their original holders from the time of Shams ud-din, or maintained their hold of the Iqta even after they ceased to serve in the military. The old Muqta's, who could not serve as military commanders (emirs) for their revenue, were to be dismissed from their fief and settled with a pension of forty to fifty tankas. The younger Muqtas had been taxed for the surplus revenue (which was not taken from them as it should have) and the children and women who took possession of the Iqta of their forebearers, were to be deprived of their Iqtas and compensated with the money required to sustain them. However, he was partially dissuaded from this ruling due to the advice of the old Kotwal, Fakhr ud-din, and the old nobles retained their lands.
Balban's steps against the nobility were so extreme as to raise suspicion from his brother, Sher Khan, who is said to have never visited Delhi. It appears that resentment between the brothers had to come to a degree that made the Sultan poison his brother
Balban also elevated the position of the Sultan, further reducing the force of the nobility. He took the title "Shadow of god on earth" and introduced the Persian culture of Zaminbos that is lying flat on one's face before the emperor and kissing his feet. He always appeared in his full uniform and in the company of his royal procession. He would not laugh (an inappropriate custom in the Islamic view) and did not permit laughter in his court. We are told that he also rid the court of wine and gambling, which Islam prohibits.
Nevertheless, Ghiyasudding Balban still took game. However, his hunting excursions were more frequently used as a form of military training, or even as a cover for military expeditions (supposedly to prevent the Mongols from hearing of his departure).
One of these military expeditions was set against Bengal, after its ruler, Tughril Khan, had revolted and took the Laqb Nasir ud din. In order to prevent political and military vacuum from occumulatig in his capital, he first sent his warlords against the rebel, but two of them were defeated and it is told that many of their troops deserted to Tughril's side due to his rumored wealth. Ghiyasudding was much infuriated by this, hanging his failed warlords and eventually being resolved upon heading to Bengal himself.
A large army was assembled and crossed the Saru on boats. The army made its way even during the rainy season of Monsoon, with a band of Turkic riders as scouts sent ahead of the main force. The very rumor of the Sultan's arrival to Bengal had frightened Tughril Khan to the point of fleeing into the countryside, leaving his capital Lakhnauti to the conquest of Balban's forces. To the dismay of the locals, the Sultan ordered stakes to be erected in the Bazar for a mile's length, ordering that anyone even remotely associated with Tughril was to be staked. However, his advisors later dissuaded him from this.
Tughril himself was later found camping in the jungles by the scouts. A surprise attack was initiated long before the army reached the site, but in the panic of being assaulted, Tughril's camp seemed to have figured that the army of the Sultan was upon them. Tughril himself had fled through the back of his tent, but was stuck by an arrow and later decapitated. His bane was nicknamed Tughril-kush (bane of Tughril) and earned many riches and robes.
He ruled as the Sultan from 1266 until his death in 1286, allegdly at the age of eighty, which was very old at the time. His destined heir was his older son, Muhammad Khan, but he had perished in battle against the Mongols. His other son, Bughra Khan, was not so highly esteemed by his father, and sought to remain the ruler of Bengal instead. He therefore choose his grandson, Qai Khusrau, son of Bughra Khan, as heir apparent. However, after his death his nobles nominated Qai Khusrau's brother, Qai Qubad as Sultan Muizz ud-din.
Muizz ud din reign (1287–1290), while his father, Bughra Khan, asserted independence in Bengal. Qaiqubad was very weak and incompetent and eventually fell to stroke and had to pass the rule to his three years old son, Kayumaras, who was eventually dethronned by his guardian, Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji in 1290, bringing an end to the Slave dynasty.
Today, Tomb of Balban wherein a true arch and a true dome were built of the first time in India, lies within the Mehrauli Archaeological Park in Delhi, adjacent to which stands that of his son Khan Shahid and wall mosque. The domes of both the tombs have collapsed and the structures are ruined structures were restored in the recent years when the conservation work began in the park.
Nasir ud din Mahmud
Muiz ud din Qaiqabad