Delhi Sultans

Learning Goals:

Delhi is the capital of India and hence it is politically the most important city in India. But Delhi was like any other non-descript city till twelfth century. It was only in the twelfth century, that Delhi became an important city. Right from the days of the Rajput rulers; Delhi gradually grew in political importance in India. During the Mughal rule, it reached its pinnacle of political importance.

The upcoming city: Delhi

Delhi first became the capital of a kingdom only under the Tomaras who were a part of the Rajput dynasties. The Tomara Rajputs were defeated in the mid-twelfth century by the Chauhans. Delhi became an important commercial centre under the Tomaras and Chauhans.

The Delhi Sultanate began in the early thirteenth century. This marked the transformation of Delhi into a capital that controlled many areas of the subcontinent. The Delhi Sultanate was composed of five dynasties which ruled during different periods. The Delhi Sultans built many cities in the area that is known today as Delhi. These are Dehli-i-Kuhna, Jahanpanah, Siri, Firuzabad; to name a few.

The Rulers of Delhi

  1. Rajput Dynasties
    1. Tomaras: Early twelfth century - 1165
    2. Ananga Pala: 1130 - 1145
    3. Chauhans: 1165 - 1192
    4. Prithviraj Chauhan: 1175 - 1192
  2. Early Turkish Rulers
    1. Qutbuddin Aybak: 1206 - 1210
    2. Shamsuddin Iltutmish: 1210 - 1236
    3. Raziyya: 1236 - 1240
    4. Ghiyasuddin Balban: 1266 - 1287
  3. Khalji Dynasty
    1. Jalaluddin Khalji: 1290 - 1296
    2. Alauddin Khalji: 1296 - 1316
  4. Tughluq Dynasty
    1. Ghiyasuddin Tughluq: 1320 - 1324
    2. Muhammad Tughluq: 1324 - 1351
    3. Firuz Shah Tughluq: 1351 - 1388
  5. Sayyid Dynasty
    1. Khizr Khan: 1414 - 1421
  6. Lodhi Dynasty
    1. Bahlul Lodi: 1451 - 1489

The Delhi Sultans


You have read that coins, inscriptions and architecture are rich source of information for historians. But gradually, ‘histories’ became somewhat more valuable sources of information. Chronicles written by scribes were called tarikh (singular)/tawarikh (plural) during this period. Tawarikh were written in Persian. It was the language of administration in the Delhi Sultanate.

The authors of tawarikh were learned men- secretaries, administrators, poets and courtiers. They recounted events and advised rulers on governance, emphasizing the significance of just rule. They lived in cities (mainly in Delhi) and rarely lived in villages. They wrote histories for the Sultans; expecting rich rewards in return. They advised rulers on the need to preserve and ideal social order. According to them, an ideal social order was based on birthright and gender distinctions.

The Circle of Justice: Fakhr-I Mudabbir: He was an important scribe. He wrote about a circle of justice wherein the survival of kings, soldiers and peasants are in interconnected. According to him; a king cannot survive without soldiers and a soldier cannot survive without salary. Revenue from peasants was the source of soldiers’ salary. A peasant needed to be prosperous and happy to be able to pay revenue. Hence, a king needed to provide just rule and honest governance to ensure prosperity of peasants.

Gender Distinction: These refer to the social and biological differences between men and women. These also refer to the bias in the society wherein men are considered superior to women.

Raziya Sultan

Raziya became the Sultan in 1236. She was the daughter of Iltutmish. But most of the people could not accept a woman as a ruler. Most of the nobles in the Sultanate were not happy at her attempts to rule independently. As a result, she could remain the ruler only for about four years and was removed from the throne in 1240.

Rudramadevi (1262 – 1289) belonged to the Kakatiya dynasty of Warangal (Andhra Pradesh). She avoided gender discrimination by changing her name on inscriptions and pretended to be a man. Another queen who ruled Kashmir during 980 – 1003, was addressed as ‘Didda’ instead of ‘didi’ (elder sister). This also shows the biases which people had about women.

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