Khalji dynasty

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Khalji Sultanate
Territory controlled by the Khaljis (dark green) and their tributaries (light green).[1]
Territory controlled by the Khaljis (dark green) and their tributaries (light green).[1]
Common languagesPersian (official)[2]
• 1290–1296
Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji
• 1296–1316
Alauddin Khalji
• 1316
Shihab ad-Din Umar
• 1316–1320
Qutb ad-Din Mubarak
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Mamluk dynasty of Delhi
Vaghela dynasty
Tughlaq dynasty
Today part ofIndia

The Khalji or Khilji[a] (Pashto: غلجيان‎) dynasty was a Turko-Afghan[3][4][5][6] dynasty which ruled on the Delhi sultanate, covering large parts of the Indian subcontinent for nearly three decades between 1290 and 1320.[7][8][9] Founded by Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji as the second dynasty to rule the Delhi Sultanate of India,[10] it came to power through a revolution that marked the transfer of power from the monopoly of Turkic nobles to Afghans.[11][12] Its rule is known for conquests into present day South India[7] and successfully fending off the repeated Mongol invasions of India.[13][14]


Front and back of copper coin with raised inscription, against a red background
Copper coin of Alauddin Khalji

The Khaljis of the Khalji Dynasty were of Turko-Afghan[3][4][5][6] origin whose ancestors, the Khalaj, are said to have been initially a Turkic people who migrated together with the Iranian Huns and Hephthalites[15] from Central Asia, into the southern and eastern regions of modern-day Afghanistan as early as 660CE, where they ruled the region of Kabul as the Buddhist Kabul Shahis.[16] From the very beginning, the Khalaj were going through a process of assimilation into the Pashtun tribal system. During their reign in India, they were already treated entirely as Afghans by the Turkic nobles of the Delhi Sultanate.[11][17][18]

The modern Pashto-speaking Ghilji Pashtuns, who make up the majority of the Pashtuns in Afghanistan, are the modern result of the Khalaj assimilation into the Pashtuns. Between the 10th and 13th centuries, some sources refer to the Khalaj people as of Turkic, but some others do not.[19] Minorsky argues that the early history of the Khalaj tribe is obscure and adds that the identity of the name Khalaj is still to be proved.[20] Mahmud al-Kashgari (11th century) does not include the Khalaj among the Oghuz Turkic tribes, but includes them among the Oghuz-Turkman (where Turkman meant "Like the Turks") tribes. Kashgari felt the Khalaj did not belong to the original stock of Turkish tribes but had associated with them and therefore, in language and dress, often appeared "like Turks".[19] The 11th century Tarikh-i Sistan and the Firdausi's Shahnameh also distinguish and differentiate the Khalaj from the Turks.[21] Minhaj-i-Siraj Juzjani (13th century) never identified Khalaj as Turks, but was careful not to refer to them as Pashtuns. They were always a category apart from Turks, Tajiks and Pashtuns.[19] Muhammad ibn Najib Bakran's Jahan-nama explicitly describes them as Turkic,[22] although he notes that their complexion had become darker (compared to the Turks) and their language had undergone enough alterations to become a distinct dialect. The modern historian Irfan Habib has argued that the Khaljis were not related to the Turkic people and were instead ethnic Pashtuns. Habib pointed out that, in some 15th-century Devanagari Sati inscriptions, the later Khaljis of Malwa have been referred to as "Khalchi" and "Khilchi", and that the 17th century chronicle Padshahnama, an area near Boost in Afghanistan (where the Khalaj once resided) as "Khalich". Habib theorizes that the earlier Persian chroniclers misread the name "Khalchi" as "Khalji" . He also argues that no 13th century source refers to the Turkish background of the Khalji. However, Muhammad ibn Najib Bakran's Jahan-nama (c. 1200-1220) described the Khalaj people as a "tribe of Turks" that had been going through a language shift.[22]


Jalal-ud-din Khalji[edit]

Khaljis were vassals of the Mamluk dynasty of Delhi and served the Sultan of Delhi, Ghiyas ud din Balban, as a minor part of the Muslim nobility. The last major Turkic ruler, Balban, in his struggle to maintain power over his insubordinate Turkish officers, destroyed the power of the Forty. However this indirectly damaged the Turkish integrity of the nobility, which had opposed the power of the non-Turks. This left them vulnerable to the Khalji and Indo-Muslim faction, which had been strengthening due to the ever-growing number of converts, to take power through a series of assassinations.[23] One by one the Mamluk officers were murdered, and the last ruler of the Turkic Mamluk dynasty - the 17-year old Muiz ud din Qaiqabad - was killed in the Kailu-gheri Palace during the coup by Jalal ud din Firuz Khalji.[24]

Jalaluddin Firuz Khalji, who was around 70 years old at the time of his ascension, was known as a mild-mannered, humble and kind monarch to the general public.[25][26]

Jalaluddin succeeded in overcoming the opposition of the Turkish nobles and ascended the throne of Delhi in January 1290. Jalal-ud-din was not universally accepted: During his six-year reign (1290–96), Balban's nephew revolted due to his assumption of power and the subsequent sidelining of nobility and commanders serving the Mamluk dynasty.[27] Jalal-ud-din suppressed the revolt and executed some commanders, then led an unsuccessful expedition against Ranthambhor and repelled a Mongol force on the banks of the Sind River in central India with the help of his nephew Juna Khan.[28]

Alauddin Khalji[edit]

Alauddin Khalji was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din. He raided the Deccan peninsula and Deogiri - then the capital of the state of Maharashtra, looting their treasure.[24][29] He returned to Delhi in 1296, murdered Jalal-ud-din and assumed power as Sultan.[30] He would appoint his Indo-Muslim allies such as Zafar Khan(Minister of War),[31] Nusrat Khan (Wazir of Dehli),[32][33] Ayn al Mulk Multani,[34] Malik Karfur, Malik Tughlaq,[35] and Malik Nayk(Master of the Horse)[36] who were famous warriors but non-Turks, which resulted in the emergence of an Indo-Muslim state.

To secure a route to Gujarat's trading ports, Ayn al-Mulk Multani was sent to conquer the Paramara kingdom of Malwa. Its Rai defended it with a large Rajput army, but he was defeated by Multani who became the governor of the province.[37] Then Nusrat Khan was sent to conquer Gujarat itself, where he defeated its Solanki king.[38] Nusrat Khan plundered its chief cities and sacked its temples, such as the famous temple of Somnath which had been rebuilt in the twelfth century. It was here where Nusrat Khan captured Malik Kafur who would later become a military general.[39] Alauddin continued expanding Delhi Sultanate into South India, with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan, collecting large war booty (Anwatan) from those they defeated.[40] His commanders collected war spoils from conquered kingdoms and paid khums (one fifth) on ghanima (booty collected during war) to Sultan's treasury, which helped strengthen the Khalji rule.[41]

The Koh-i-Noor diamond was seized by Alauddin Khalji's army in 1310, from the Kakatiya dynasty in Warangal.[41]

Alauddin Khalji reigned for 20 years. He attacked and seized states of Ranthambhor (1301 AD), Chittorgarh (1303), Māndu (1305) and plundered the wealthy state of Devagiri.[42] He also withstood two Mongol raids.[43] Alauddin was also known for his cruelty against attacked kingdoms after wars. Historians note him as a tyrant, and that anyone Alauddin Khalji suspected of being a threat to this power was killed, along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 and 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising.[44] He also killed his own family members and nephews, in 1299–1300, after he suspected them of rebellion, by first gouging out their eyes and then beheading them.[29]

In 1308, Alauddin's lieutenant, Malik Kafur captured Warangal, overthrew the Hoysala Empire south of the Krishna River and raided Madurai in Tamil Nadu.[42] He then looted the treasury in capitals and from the temples of south India. Among these loots was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamond in human history, the Koh-i-Noor.[41] Malik Kafur returned to Delhi in 1311, laden with loot and war booty from Deccan peninsula which he submitted to Alauddin Khalji. This made Malik Kafur, born in a Hindu family and who had converted to Islam before becoming Delhi Sultanate's army commander, a favorite of Alauddin Khalji.[28]

In 1311, Alauddin ordered a massacre of Mongols in the Delhi Sultanate wherein between 15,000 and 30,000 Mongol settlers, who had recently converted to Islam, were killed after Khalji suspected them of plotting an uprising against him.[44][45]

The last Khalji sultans[edit]

Alauddin Khalji died in December 1315. Thereafter, the sultanate witnessed chaos, coup and succession of assassinations.[24] Malik Kafur became the sultan but lacked support from the amirs and was killed within a few months.

Over the next three years following Malik Kafur's death, another three sultans assumed power violently and/or were killed in coups. First, the amirs installed a six-year-old named Shihab-ud-din Omar as sultan and his teenage brother, Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah, as regent. Qutb killed his younger brother and appointed himself sultan; to win over the loyalty of the amirs and the Malik clan he offered Ghazi Malik the position of army commander in the Punjab. Others were given a choice between various offices and death. After ruling in his own name for less than four years, Mubarak Shah was murdered in 1320 by one of his generals, Khusraw Khan. Amirs persuaded Ghazi Malik, who was still army commander in the Punjab, to lead a coup. Ghazi Malik's forces marched on Delhi, captured Khusraw Khan, and beheaded him. Upon becoming sultan, Ghazi Malik renamed himself Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq, becoming the first ruler of the Tughluq dynasty.[29]

Economic policy and administration[edit]

Alauddin Khalji changed the tax policies to strengthen his treasury to help pay the keep of his growing army and fund his wars of expansion.[46] He raised agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% – payable in grain and agricultural produce (or cash),[47] eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him; he cut salaries of officials, poets and scholars in his kingdom.[46]

Alauddin Khalji enforced four taxes on non-Muslims in the Sultanate - jizya (poll tax), kharaj (land tax), kari (house tax), and chari (pasture tax).[48][49] He also decreed that his Delhi-based revenue officers assisted by local Muslim jagirdars, khuts, mukkadims, chaudharis and zamindars seize by force half of all produce any farmer generates, as a tax on standing crop, so as to fill sultanate granaries.[50][51] His officers enforced tax payment by beating up middlemen responsible for rural tax collection.Furthermore, Alauddin Khalji demanded, state Kulke and Rothermund, from his "wise men in the court" to create "rules and regulations in order to grind down the common man, so as to reduce them to abject poverty and deprive them of wealth and any form of surplus property that could foster a rebellion;[48] At the same time, he confiscated all landed property from his courtiers and officers.[48] Revenue assignments to Muslim jagirdars were also cancelled and the revenue was collected by the central administration.[52] Henceforth, state Kulke and Rothermund, "everybody was busy with earning a living so that nobody could even think of rebellion."[48]

Alauddin Khalji taxation methods and increased taxes reduced agriculture output and the Sultanate witnessed massive inflation. In order to compensate for salaries that he had cut and fixed for Muslim officials and soldiers, Alauddin introduced price controls on all agriculture produce, goods, livestocks and slaves in the kingdom, as well as controls on where, how, and by whom these could be sold. Markets called shahana-i-mandi were created.[52][53][54] Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these mandi to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Alauddin deployed an extensive network of Munhiyans (spies, secret police) who would monitor the mandi and had the power to seize anyone trying to buy or sell anything at a price different than the official controlled prices.[54][55] Those found violating these mandi rules were severely punished, such as by cutting out their flesh.[28] Taxes collected in form of seized crops and grains were stored in sultanate's granaries.[56] Over time, farmers quit farming for income and shifted to subsistence farming, the general food supply worsened in north India, shortages increased and Delhi Sultanate witnessed increasingly worse and extended periods of famines.[28][57] The Sultan banned private storage of food by anyone. Rationing system was introduced by Alauddin as shortages multiplied; however, the nobility and his army were exempt from the per family quota-based food rationing system.[57] During these famines, Khalji's sultanate granaries and wholesale mandi system with price controls ensured sufficient food for his army, court officials and the urban population in Delhi.[46][58] Price controls instituted by Khalji reduced prices, but also lowered wages to a point where ordinary people did not benefit from the low prices. The price control system collapsed shortly after the death of Alauddin Khalji, with prices of various agriculture products and wages doubling to quadrupling within a few years.[59]

Historical impact[edit]

The tax system introduced during the Khalji dynasty had a long term influence on Indian taxation system and state administration,

Alauddin Khalji's taxation system was probably the one institution from his reign that lasted the longest, surviving indeed into the nineteenth or even the twentieth century. From now on, the land tax (kharaj or mal) became the principal form in which the peasant's surplus was expropriated by the ruling class.

— The Cambridge Economic History of India: c.1200-c.1750, [60]


Within Sultanate's capital city of Delhi, during Alauddin Khalji's reign, at least half of the population were slaves working as servants, concubines and guards for the Muslim nobles, amirs, court officials and commanders.[61] Slavery in India during the Khalji dynasty, and later Islamic dynasties, included two groups of people - persons seized during military campaigns, and people who defaulted on their taxes.[62][63] The institution of slavery and bondage labor became pervasive during the Khalji dynasty; male slaves were referred to as banda, qaid, ghulam, or burdah, while female slaves were called bandi, kaniz or laundi.[citation needed]


Alauddin Khalji is credited with the early Indo-Mohammedan architecture, a style and construction campaign that flourished during Tughlaq dynasty. Among works completed during Khalji dynasty, are Alai Darwaza - the southern gateway of Qutb complex enclosure, the Idgah at Rapri, and the Jamat Khana Masjid in Delhi.[64] The Alai Darwaza, completed in 1311, was included as part of Qutb Minar and its Monuments UNESCO World Heritage site in 1993.[65]

Perso-Arabic inscriptions on monuments have been traced to the Khalji dynasty era.[2]

Disputed historical sources[edit]

Historians have questioned the reliability of historical accounts about the Khalji dynasty. Genuine primary sources and historical records from 1260 to 1349 period have not been found.[66] One exception is the short chapter on Delhi Sultanate from 1302 to 1303 AD by Wassaf in Persia, which is duplicated in Jami al-Tawarikh, and which covers the Balban rule, start of Jalal-ud-din Chili's rule and circumstances of the succession of Alauddin Khalji. A semi-fictional poetry (mathnawi) by Yamin al-Din Abul Hasan, also known as Amir Khusrau, is full of adulation for his employer, the reigning Sultan. Khusrau's adulation-filled narrative poetry has been used as a source of Khalji dynasty history, but this is a disputed source.[66][67] Three historical sources, composed 30 to 115 years after the end of Khalji dynasty, are considered more independent but also questioned given the gap in time. These are Isami's epic of 1349, Diya-yi Barani's work of 1357 and Sirhindi's account of 1434, which possibly relied on now lost text or memories of people in Khalji's court. Of these Barani's text is the most referred and cited in scholarly sources.[66][68]

List of rulers of Delhi (1290–1320)[edit]

Titular Name Personal Name Reign[69]
Shāyista Khān

جلال الدین

Malik Fīroz
ملک فیروز خلجی
Ali Gurshasp
علی گرشاسپ خلجی
شھاب الدین
Umar Khan
عمر خان خلجی
قطب الدین
Mubarak Khan
مبارک خان خلجی
Khusro Khan ended the Khalji dynasty in 1320.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ In medieval Persian manuscripts, the word can be read as either "Khalji" or "Khilji" because of the omission of short vowel signs in orthography,[70] but "Khalji" is the correct name.[71]


  1. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 147, map XIV.3 (i). ISBN 0226742210.
  2. ^ a b "Arabic and Persian Epigraphical Studies - Archaeological Survey of India". Archived from the original on 29 September 2011. Retrieved 14 November 2010.
  3. ^ a b Khan, Yusuf Husain (1971). Indo-Muslim Polity (Turko-Afghan Period). Indian Institute of Advanced Study.
  4. ^ a b Society, Pakistan Historical (1995). Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society. Pakistan Historical Society. Bengal long before the formal Turco - Afghan conquest conducted by Bakhtiyar Khalji * at the end of the twelfth century . Although Islamic state power came to Bengal by ...
  5. ^ a b Fisher, Michael H. (18 October 2018). An Environmental History of India: From Earliest Times to the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-11162-2. In 1290, the Turk-Afghan Khalji clan ended the first mamluk dynasty and then ruled in Delhi until one of their own Turkish mamluk commanders rebelled and established his own Tugluq dynasty
  6. ^ a b Bose, Saikat K. (20 June 2015). Boot, Hooves and Wheels: And the Social Dynamics behind South Asian Warfare. Vij Books India Pvt Ltd. ISBN 978-93-84464-54-7. ... by the Turco–Afghan dynasty of the Khiljis.5 Aybak and Iltutmish, who campaigned with ambivalent success in Rajputana, had encouraged an independent adventurer called Muhammad b. Bakhtyar Khilji (different from the Khilji sultans and ..
  7. ^ a b "Khalji Dynasty". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 13 November 2014. This dynasty, like the previous Slave dynasty, was of Turkish origin, though the Khaljī tribe had long been settled in Afghanistan. Its three kings were noted for their faithlessness, their ferocity, and their penetration to the South of India.
  8. ^ Dynastic Chart The Imperial Gazetteer of India, v. 2, p. 368.
  9. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 80–89. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  10. ^ Mohammad Aziz Ahmad (1939). "The Foundation of Muslim Rule in India. (1206-1290 A.d.)". Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. Indian History Congress. 3: 832–841. JSTOR 44252438.
  11. ^ a b Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava 1966, p. 98: "His ancestors, after having migrated from Turkistan, had lived for over 200 years in the Helmand valley and Lamghan, parts of Afghanistan called Garmasir or the hot region, and had adopted Afghan manners and customs. They were, therefore, looked upon as Afghans by the Turkish nobles in India as they had intermarried with local Afghans and adopted their customs and manners. They were looked down as non Turks by Turks."
  12. ^ Abraham Eraly (2015). The Age of Wrath: A History of the Delhi Sultanate. Penguin Books. p. 126. ISBN 978-93-5118-658-8:"The prejudice of Turks was however misplaced in this case, for Khaljis were actually ethnic Turks. But they had settled in Afghanistan long before the Turkish rule was established there, and had over the centuries adopted Afghan customs and practices, intermarried with the local people, and were therefore looked down on as non-Turks by pure-bred Turks."CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  13. ^ Mikaberidze, Alexander (2011). Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO. p. 62. ISBN 978-1-5988-4337-8. Retrieved 13 June 2013.
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  16. ^ Rezakhani, Khodadad (15 March 2017). ReOrienting the Sasanians: East Iran in Late Antiquity. Edinburgh University Press. p. 165. ISBN 978-1-4744-0030-5. A Bactrian Document (BD T) from this period brings interesting information about the area to our attention. In it, dated to BE 476 (701 AD), a princess identified as `Bag-aziyas, the Great Turkish Princess, the Queen of Qutlugh Tapaghligh Bilga Sävüg, the Princess of the Khalach, the Lady of Kadagestan offers alms to the local god of the region of Rob, known as Kamird, for the health of (her) child. Inaba, arguing for the Khalaj identity of the kings of Kabul, takes this document as a proof that the Khalaj princess is from Kabul and has been offered to the (Hephthalite) king of Kadagestan, thus becoming the lady of that region. The identification of Kadagestan as a Hephthalite stronghold is based on Grenet's suggestion of the survival of Hephthalite minor stares in this region,' and is in con-
  17. ^ Abraham Eraly (2015). The Age of Wrath: A History of the Delhi Sultanate. Penguin Books. p. 126. ISBN 978-93-5118-658-8:"The prejudice of Turks was however misplaced in this case, for Khaljis were actually ethnic Turks. But they had settled in Afghanistan long before the Turkish rule was established there, and had over the centuries adopted Afghan customs and practices, intermarried with the local people, and were therefore looked down on as non-Turks by pure-bred Turks."CS1 maint: postscript (link)
  18. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of medieval India: from 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. Atlantic. p. 28. ISBN 81-269-0123-3:"The Khaljis were a Turkish tribe but having been long domiciled in Afghanistan, had adopted some Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in Delhi Court. They were regarded as barbarians. The Turkish nobles had opposed the ascent of Jalal-ud-din to the throne of Delhi."CS1 maint: postscript (link)
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  25. ^ Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava 1966, p. 141.
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External links[edit]