The Delhi Sultans - Revision Notes

 CBSE Class 07 Social Science

Revision Notes
Chapter – 3 History
The Delhi Sultans

  • Delhi became an important city only in the twelfth century.
  • Delhi first became the capital of a kingdom under the Tomara Rajputs, who were defeated in the middle of the twelfth century by the Chauhans (also referred to as Chahamanas) of Ajmer.
  • It was under the Tomaras and Chauhans that Delhi became an important commercial centre. Many rich Jaina merchants lived in the cityand constructed several temples. Coins minted here, called dehliwal, had a wide circulation.
  • The transformation of Delhi into a capital that controlled vast areas of the subcontinent started with the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate in the beginning of the thirteenth century.
  • The Delhi Sultans built many cities in the area that we now know as Delhi.

The Rulers of Delhi:


  • Tomaras early twelfth century - 1165
  • Ananga Pala 1130 -1145
  • Chauhans 1165 -1192
  • Prithviraj Chauhan 1175 -1192


  • Qutbuddin Aybak 1206 -1210
  • Shamsuddin Iltutmish 1210 -1236
  • Raziyya 1236 -1240
  • Ghiyasuddin Balban 1266- 1287


  • Jalaluddin Khalji 1290 - 1296
  • Alauddin Khalji 1296 -1316


  • Ghiyasuddin Tughluq 1320 -1324
  • Muhammad Tughluq 1324 -1351
  • Firuz Shah Tughluq 1351 -1388

SAYYID DYNASTY 1414 - 1451

  • Khizr Khan 1414 -1421

LODI DYNASTY 1451 - 1526

  • Bahlul Lodi 1451 -1489

Finding out about the Delhi Sultans:

(i) Although inscriptions, coins and architecture provide a lot of information, especially valuable are “histories”, tarikh (singular) / tawarikh (plural), written in Persian, the language of administration under the Delhi Sultans.

(ii)The authors of tawarikh were learned men: secretaries, administrators, poets and courtiers, who both recounted events and advised rulers on governance, emphasising the importance of just rule.

(iii)The following additional details are important:

(1) The authors of tawarikh lived in cities (mainly Delhi) and hardly ever in villages.

(2) They often wrote their histories for Sultans in the hope of rich rewards.

(3) These authors advised rulers on the need to preserve an “ideal” social order based on birthright and gender distinctions. Their ideas were not shared by everybody.

(iv)In 1236, Sultan Iltutmish’s daughter, Raziyya, became Sultan.

  • The chronicler of the age, Minhaj-i Siraj, recognized that she was more able and qualified than all her brothers.
  • But he was not comfortable at having a queen as ruler. Nor were the nobles happy at her attempts to rule independently.
  • She was removed from the throne in 1240.

From garrison town to empire

The expansion of the Delhi Sultanate

(i) In the early thirteenth century, the control of the Delhi Sultans rarely went beyond heavily fortified towns occupied by garrisons.

(ii) The Sultans seldom controlled the hinterland of the cities and were therefore dependent upon trade, tribute or plunder for supplies.

(iii) Controlling garrison towns in distant Bengal and Sind from Delhi was extremely difficult. Rebellion, war, even bad weather could snap fragile communication routes.

(iv) The state was also challenged by Mongol invasions from Afghanistan and by governors who rebelled at any sign of the Sultan’s weakness.

(v) The Sultanate barely survived these challenges. Its expansion occurred during the reigns of Ghiyasuddin Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq.

(vi) The first set of campaigns along the “internal frontier” of the Sultanate aimed at consolidating the hinterlands of the garrison towns. During these campaigns, forests were cleared in the Ganga-Yamuna doab and hunter-gatherers and pastoralists expelled from their habitat.

(vii)These lands were given to peasants and agriculture was encouraged. New fortresses and towns were established to protect trade routes and to promote regional trade.

(viii)The second expansion occurred along the “external frontier” of the Sultanate. Military expeditions into southern India started during the reign of Alauddin Khalji and culminated with Muhammad Tughluq.

(ix) In their campaigns, Sultanate armies captured elephants, horses and slaves and carried away precious metals.

(x) By the end of Muhammad Tughluq’s reign, 150 years after somewhat humble beginnings, the armies of the Delhi Sultanate had marched across a large part of the subcontinent. They had defeated rival armies and seized cities.

(xi) The Sultanate collected taxes from the peasantry and dispensed justice in its realm.

The Masjid:

(i) A mosque is called a masjid in Arabic, literally a place where a Muslim prostrates in reverence to Allah.

(ii) In a “congregational mosque” (masjid-i jami or jama masjid), Muslims read their prayers (namaz) together.

(iii) Members of the congregation choose the most respected, learned male as their leader (imam) for the rituals of prayer. He also delivers the sermon (khutba) during the Friday prayer.

(iv) During prayer, Muslims stand facing Mecca. In India, this is to the west. This is called the qibla.

(v)The Delhi Sultans built several mosques in cities all over the subcontinent. These demonstrated their claims to be protectors of Islam and Muslims.

(vi)Mosques also helped to create the sense of a community of believerswho shared a belief
system and a code of conduct. It was necessary to reinforce this idea of a community because Muslims came from a variety of backgrounds.

A closer look: Administration and Consolidation under the Khaljis and Tughluqs:

(i) The consolidation of a kingdom as vast as the Delhi Sultanate needed reliable governors and administrators.

(ii) Rather than appointing aristocrats and landed chieftains as governors, the early Delhi Sultans, especially Iltutmish, favoured their special slaves purchased for military service, called bandagan in Persian.

(iii) They were carefully trained to man some of the most important political offices in the kingdom. Since they were totally dependent upon their master, the Sultan could trust and rely upon them.

(iv)The Khaljis and Tughluqs continued to use bandagan and also raised people of humble birth, who were often their clients, to high political positions. They were appointed as generals and governors.

(v) However, this also introduced an element of political instability. Slaves and clients were loyal to their masters and patrons, but not to their heirs. New Sultans had their own servants.

(vi) As a result, the accession of a new monarch often saw conflict between the old and the new nobility. The patronage of these humble people by the Delhi Sultans also shocked many elites and the authors of Persian tawarikh criticised the Delhi Sultans for appointing the “low and base-born” to high offices.

(vii)Like the earlier Sultans, the Khalji and Tughluq monarchs appointed military commanders and governors of territories of varying sizes. These lands were called iqtaand their holder was called iqtadar or muqti.

(viii) The duty of the muqtis was to lead military campaigns and maintain law and order in their iqtas. In exchange for their military services, the muqtis collected the revenues of their assignments as salary.

(ix) They also paid their soldiers from these revenues.

(x) Control over muqtis was most effective if their office was not inheritable and if they were assigned iqtas for a short period of time before being shifted. These harsh conditions of service were rigorously imposed during the reigns of Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq.

(xi) Accountants were appointed by the state to check the amount of revenue collected by the muqtis. Care was taken that the muqti collected only the taxes prescribed by the state and that he kept the required number of soldiers.

(xii)As the Delhi Sultans brought the hinterland of the cities under their control, they forced the landed chieftains — the samanta aristocrats — and rich landlords to accept their authority.

(xiii) Under Alauddin Khalji, the state brought the assessment and collection of land revenue under its own control. The rights of the local chieftains to levy taxes were cancelled and they were also forced to pay taxes.

(xiv) The Sultan’s administrators measured the land and kept careful accounts. Some of the old chieftains and landlords served the Sultanate as revenue collectors and assessors.

(xv) There were three types of taxes – (1) on cultivation called kharaj and amounting to about 50 per cent of the peasant’s produce, (2) on cattle and (3) on houses.

(xvi) It is important to remember that large parts of the subcontinent remained outside the control of the Delhi Sultans. It was difficult to control distant provinces like Bengal from Delhi and soon after annexing southern India, the entire region became independent.

(xvii) Even in the Gangetic plain, there were forested areasthat Sultanate forces could not penetrate. Local chieftains established their rule in these regions. Sometimes rulers like Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq could force their control in these areas but only for a short duration.

(xviii) The Mongols under Genghis Khan invaded Transoxiana in north-east Iran in 1219 and the Delhi Sultanate faced their onslaught soon after. Mongol attacks on the Delhi Sultanate increased during the reign of Alauddin Khalji and in the early years of Muhammad Tughluq’s rule.

(xix) This forced the two rulers to mobilise a large standing army in Delhi which posed a huge administrative challenge.

How did the two rulers deal with this?

Alauddin KhaljiMuhammad Tughluq
Delhi was attacked twice, in
1299/1300 and 1302-03.
As a defensive measure,
Alauddin Khalji raised a large
standing army.
The Sultanate was attacked in the early years of Muhammad Tughluq’s reign. The Mongol army was
defeated. Muhammad Tughluq was confident about
the strength of his army and his resources to plan an
attack on Transoxiana. He therefore raised a large
standing army.
Alauddin constructed a new
garrison town named Siri for
his soldiers.
Rather than constructing a new garrison town, the
oldest of the four cities of Delhi (Dehli-i Kuhna) was
emptied of its residents and the soldiers garrisoned
there. The residents of the old city were sent to the
new capital of Daulatabad in the south.
The soldiers had to be fed. This was done through the produce
collected as tax from lands
between the Ganga and Yamuna.
Tax was fixed at 50 per cent of
the peasant’s yield.
Produce from the same area was collected as tax to
feed the army. But to meet the need of the large
number of soldiers, the Sultan levied additional taxes. This coincided with famine in the area.
The soldiers had to be paid.
Alauddin chose to pay his soldiers salaries in cash rather
than iqtas. The soldiers would
buy their supplies from
merchants in Delhi and it was
thus feared that merchants
would raise their prices. To stop
this, Alauddin controlled the
prices of goods in Delhi. Prices
were carefully surveyed by
officers, and merchants who did
not sell at the prescribed rates
were punished.
Muhammad Tughluq also paid his soldiers cash
salaries. But instead of controlling prices, he used a
“token” currency, somewhat like present-day paper
currency, but made out of cheap metals, not gold and silver. People in the fourteenth century did not trust
these coins. They were very smart: they saved their
gold and silver coins and paid all their taxes to the
state with this token currency. This cheap currency
could also be counterfeited easily.
Alauddin's administrative measures were quite successful
and chroniclers praised his reign for its cheap prices and efficient
supplies of goods in the market.
He successfully withstood the
threat of Mongol invasions.
Muhammad Tughluq’s administrative measures
were a failure. His campaign into Kashmir was a
disaster. He then gave up his plans to invade
Transoxiana and disbanded his large army.
Meanwhile, his administrative measures created
complications. The shifting of people to Daulatabad
was resented. The raising of taxes and famine in the
Ganga-Yamuna belt led to widespread rebellion. And
finally, the “token” currency had to be recalled.

(xx)In thelist of Muhammad Tughluq’s failures, we sometimes forget that for the first time in the history of the Sultanate, a Delhi Sultan planned a campaign to capture Mongol territory. Unlike Alauddin’s defensive measures, Muhammad Tughluq’s measures were conceived as a part of a military offensive against the Mongols.

The Sultanate in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Centuries:

(i) The Tughluqs, the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties ruled from Delhi and Agra until 1526. By then, Jaunpur, Bengal, Malwa, Gujarat, Rajasthan and the entire south India had independent rulers who established flourishing states and prosperous capitals.

(ii) This was also the period which saw the emergence of new ruling groups like the Afghans and the Rajputs.

(iii)Some of the states established in this period were small but powerful and extremely well administered.

(iv)Sher Shah Suri (1540-1545) started his career as the manager of a small territory for his uncle in Bihar and eventually challenged and defeated the Mughal emperor Humayun (1530-1540, 1555-1556).

(v) Sher Shah captured Delhi and established his own dynasty. Although the Suri dynasty ruled for only fifteen years (1540-1555), it introduced an administration that borrowed elements from Alauddin Khalji and made them more efficient.

(vi) Sher Shah’s administration became the model followed by the great emperor Akbar (1556-1605) when he consolidated the Mughal Empire.