Madurai Sultanate

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Sultanate of Ma'bar
مابار سلطنت
Capital Ma'bar
Languages Persian (official)
Religion Islam (official)
Government Monarchy
 •  1335–1339 Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan
 •  1368–1378 Sikandar Khan
 •  Established 1335
 •  Disestablished 1378
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Delhi Sultanate
Vijayanagara Empire
Today part of  India

Ma'bar Sultanate (Persian: مابار سلطنت‎‎), unofficially known as the Madurai Sultanate, was a short lived independent Muslim kingdom based in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. The sultanate was proclaimed in 1335 when the then viceroy of Madurai, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared his independence from the Delhi Sultanate. Ahsan Khan and his descendants ruled Madurai and surrounding territories until 1378 when the last sultan, Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah fell in battle against the forces of the Vijayanagara Empire led by Kumara Kampana. In this short reign of 43 years, the Sultanate had 8 different rulers.


Coin of Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan first ruler of the Sultanate of Madurai

In the early 14th Century, South India was subjected to repeated invasions by armies of the Delhi Sultanate. There were three separate invasions within a period of fifteen years. The first invasion was that of Malik Kafur in 1311 CE which sacked Madurai. Following this there were two more expeditions from the Delhi Sultanate - the second in 1314 CE led by Khusrav Khan and the third in 1323 CE by Ulugh Khan. These invasions shattered the Pandyan empire beyond revival. While the previous invasions were content with plunder, Ulugh Khan annexed the former Pandyan dominions to the Delhi Sultanate as the province of Ma'bar. Most of South India came under the Delhi's rule and was divided into five provinces - Devagiri, Tiling, Kampili, Dorasamudra and Ma'bar.[1]

In 1325, Ulugh Khan acceded to the throne in Delhi as Muhammad bin Tughluq. His plans for invading Persia and Khorasan, bankrupted his treasury and led to the issuing of token currency. This led to counterfeiting and further worsened the sultanate's finances. He was unable to pay his huge army and the soldiers stationed in distant provinces revolted. The first province to rebel was Bengal and Ma'bar soon followed. The Governor of Ma'bar, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence and set up the Madurai Sultanate.[2] The exact year of founding of the Madurai Sultanate is not clear. Numismatic evidence points to 1335 CE as the founding year.[3] The Persian historian Firishta however places the year of Ma'bar's revolt as 1340 CE.[4]

This short lived Muslim dynasty at Madurai came into existence following the decline of the Second Pandyan empire, and ruled Madurai, Trichinopoly and parts of South Arcot, for the next 48 years, first as feudatories of the Delhi Sultanate and later as independent monarchies lasting until 1378.[5] The Madurai Sultanate was destroyed by the rise of Vijayanagar, later followed by the Madurai Nayaks.

A rich merchant from the Ma'bar Sultanate, Abu Ali (P'aehali) 孛哈里 (or 布哈爾 Buhaer), was associated closely with the Ma'bar royal family. After falling out with them, he moved to Yuan dynasty China and received a Korean woman as his wife and a job from the Mongol Emperor, the woman was formerly 桑哥 Sangha's wife and her father was 蔡仁揆 채송년 Ch'ae In'gyu during the reign of 忠烈 Chungnyeol of Goryeo, recorded in the Dongguk Tonggam, Goryeosa and 留夢炎 Liu Mengyan's 中俺集 Zhong'anji.[6][7] 桑哥 Sangha was a Tibetan.[8]

Jalal-ud-Din Ahsan Khan[edit]

Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence from Delhi Sultanate around 1335 CE. His daughter was married to the historian Ibn Battuta and his son Ibrahim was the purse bearer of Muhammad bin Tughluq.[9] When Tughluq heard of Jalaluddin's rebellion he had Ibrahim killed in retaliation. Jalaluddin is variously referred to as "Syed", "Hasan" or "Hussun" by the historians Firishta and Ziauddin Barani. Tughluq tried to conquer the Tamil region, known in Muslim chronicles as Ma'bar back in 1337 CE. But he fell ill at Bidar on the way to Ma'bar and had to return to Deogiri. His army was defeated by Jalaluddin.[10] Jalaluddin was killed by one of his nobles in 1340 CE.[9]

Ala-ud-Din Udauji and Qutb-ud-Din Firuz[edit]

Coin of Ala-ud-Din Udauji, Madurai Sultanate, 1339 AD.

After Jalaluddin's murder, Ala-ud-Din Udauji Shah took power in 1340 CE. He too was soon killed during a battle with Hindu armies. He was succeeded by his son in law Qutb-ud-Din Firuz Shah, who in turn was assassinated within forty days of taking power. Qutbuddin's killer Ghiyas-ud-din Dhamagani took over as Sultan in 1340.

Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani[edit]

Ghiyasuddin was defeated by the Hoysala king Veera Ballala III at first, but later managed to capture and kill Ballala in 1343 CE during the siege of Kannanur Koppam. Ghiyasuddin captured Balalla, robbed him of his wealth, had him killed and his stuffed body displayed on the walls of Madurai.[11] Ghiyasuddin died in 1344 CE from the after effects of an aphrodisiac.[12]

Ibn Battuta chronicles[edit]

During his reign, Ibn Battuta, the Muslim Moroccan explorer known for his extensive travels through Africa and Asia, visited his court, while on his way to China. He married Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan's daughter. His travel notes mentions Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani's atrocious behaviour towards the local population. His army under his personal orders had the habit of frequently rounding up the local villagers, indiscriminately impaling them on sharpened wooden spikes and left to die.[13] These accounts of were published in the Rihla (lit. "Journey").

Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghan Shah[edit]

Ghiyasuddin was succeeded by his nephew Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghan Shah, reportedly a soldier of lowly origins who originated from Delhi. He upon ascension quickly started dismissing and killing many of the officers and nobles and various political enemies who were likely to disturb his possession of the throne.[13] He too fell into decline and was killed in a short time.


From contemporary historical accounts, the rulers of Madurai Sultanate come across as tyrants and persecutors of Hindus. Both Ibn Batutta's and Gangadevi's accounts contain graphic descriptions of atrocities committed by the Muslim Sultans on the Hindu population.

Ibn Batuta describes Ghiyasuddin Dhamgani's actions as:

Gangadevi's Madhura Vijayam declares the Muslim rule to be the pain to the three worlds:

On the condition of Madurai under the Muslim rule, Gangadevi writes:

Ibn Batuta describes a plague afflicting Madurai:

Gangadevi agrees with the Ibn Batuta on the prevalence of unnatural death:


Between 1344 and 1357 CE, the Madurai Sultanate went into a decline due to infighting and the rise of Vijayanagar in the North. This is inferred by the lack of any coinage issued during this period. However coins from 1358 to 1378 bearing the names of three Madurai Sultans - Shams-ud-Din Adil Shah, Fakhr-ud-Din Mubarak Shah and Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah - have been found. This indicates an interruption of the Muslim power during 1344-57 CE and a brief revival during 1357-78 CE.[19]


The Vijayanagar empire under Bukka Raya I made a series of efforts to conquer Southern India and re-establish a Hindu Empire. There were a series of Vijayanagar invasions in the middle of the fourteenth century which succeeded in initially restricting and finally ending the Madurai Sultanate's rule over South India. Vijayanagar's armies were led by Bukka's son Kumara Kampanna Udaiyar. Kampanna first subdued the Sambuvarayar dynasty in present-day Kanchipuram district, then a vassal of Delhi Sultanate who refused to aid the Madurai conquest and then conquered Madurai. Kampanna's invasion has been chronicled in the Sanskrit epic poem Madhura Vijayam (The conquest of Madurai) or Vira Kamparaya Charithram (History of Kampanna) written by Kampanna's wife Gangadevi. Kampanna's victory is symbolised by the restoration of Srirangam temple to its old glory in 1371 CE. Vijayanagar formally declared Madurai to be its possession during Harihara II's rule in 1378 CE.[20]

Shahs of Madurai[edit]

Titular Name Personal Name Reign
Independence from Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi Sultanate.
Jalal-ud-din Shah
جلال الدین شاہ
Ahsan Khan 1335–1339 CE
Ala-ud-din Shah
علاء الدین شاہ
Udauji 1339 CE
Qutb-ud-din Shah
قطب الدین شاہ
Feroze Khan 1339–1340 CE
Ghiyath-ud-din Shah
غیاث الدین شاہ
Muhammad Damghani 1340–1344 CE
Nasir-ud-din Shah
ناصر الدین شاہ
Mahmud Damghani 1344–1356 CE
Shams-ud-din Shah
شمس الدین شاہ
Adil Khan 1356–1358 CE
Fakhr-ud-din Shah
فخرالدین شاہ
Mubarak Khan 1358–1368 CE
Ala-ud-din Shah II
علاء الدین شاہ
Sikandar Khan 1368–1378 CE
Conquered by Vijayanagar Empire.



  1. ^ Nilakanta Sastri, P.213
  2. ^ Aiyangar, p.138
  3. ^ Aiyangar, p.152-53
  4. ^ Aiyangar, p.152
  5. ^ Majumdar 2006, pp. 233–7
  6. ^ Angela Schottenhammer (2008). The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce and Human Migration. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-3-447-05809-4. 
  7. ^ SEN, TANSEN. 2006. “The Yuan Khanate and India: Cross-cultural Diplomacy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries”. Asia Major 19 (1/2). Academia Sinica: 317.
  8. ^ p. 15.
  9. ^ a b Aiyangar, p.165
  10. ^ Aiyangar, p.154
  11. ^ Nilakanta Sastri, P.217-18
  12. ^ Aiyangar, p.166-69
  13. ^ a b Jerry Bently, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century By Ross E. Dunn (University of California Press, 1986),245.
  14. ^ Aiyangar, P.236
  15. ^ A Portion from Madhura Vijaya
  16. ^ Chattopadhyaya, p.141
  17. ^ Aiyangar, P.240
  18. ^ Chattopadhyaya, p.142
  19. ^ Aiyangar, p.176
  20. ^ Nilakanta Sastri, p.241