After the death of Balban in 1286, there was again confusion in Delhi for some time. Balban’s chosen successor, Prince Mahmud, had died earlier in a battle with the Mongols. A second son, Bughra Khan, preferred to rule over Bengal and Bihar although he was invited by the nobles at Delhi to assume the throne. Hence, a grandson of Balban was installed in Delhi. But he was too young and inexperienced to cope with the situation. There had been a good deal of resentment and opposition at the attempt of the Turkish nobles to monopolize high offices. Many non-Turks, such as the Khaljis, had come to India at the time of the Ghurid invasion. They had never received sufficient recognition in Delhi, and had to move to Bengal and Bihar for an opportunity for advancement. In course of time, many Indian Muslims had been admitted to the nobility. They also were dissatisfied at being denied high officers, as may be inferred from the manner in which Imaduddin Raihan was put up against Balban. Balban’s own example of setting aside the sons of Nasiruddin Mahmud had demonstrated that a successful general could ascend the throne by ousting the scions of an established dynasty, provided he had sufficient support in the nobility and the army.
The Khaljis (1290-1320)
For these reasons, a group of Khalji nobles led by Jalaluddin Khalji, who had been the warden of the marches in the northwest and had fought many successful engagements against the Mongols, overthrew the incompetent successors of Balban in 1290. The Khalji rebellion was welcomed by the non-Turkish sections in the nobility. The Khaljis were of a mixed Turkish—Afghan origin, did not exclude the Turks from high offices, but the rise of the Khaljis to power ended the Turkish monopoly of high offices.
Jalaluddin Khalji ruled only for a brief period of six years. He tried to mitigate some of the harsh aspects of Balban’s rule. He also tried to gain the goodwill of the nobility by a policy of tolerance and avoiding harsh punishments. The Delhi Sultanat faced numerous internal and external foes due to this policy. Jalaluddin’s policy was reversed by Alauddin who awarded drastic punishments to all those who dared to oppose him.
Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) came to the throne by treacherously murdering his uncle and father-in-law, Jalaluddin Khalji. As the governor of Awadh, Alauddin had accumulated a vast treasure by invading Deogir in the Deccan. After murdering his uncle, Alauddin won over most of the nobles and soldiers to his side by a lavish use of gold. To overawe his opponents, Alauddin Khalji adopted methods of utmost severity and ruthlessness. Alauddin framed a series of regulations to prevent the nobles from conspiring against him. They were forbidden to hold banquets or festivities, or to form marriage alliances without the permission of the sultan. To discourage festive parties, he banned the use of wines and intoxicants. He also instituted a spy service to inform the sultan of all that the nobles said and did.
By these harsh methods, Alauddin Khalji cowed down the nobles, and made them completely subservient to the crown. No further rebellions took place during his lifetime. But, in the long run, his methods proved harmful to the dynasty. The old nobility was destroyed, and the new nobility was taught to accept anyone who could ascend the throne of Delhi. This became apparent after Alauddin Khalji’s death in 1316. His favourite, Malik Kafur, raised a minor son of Alauddin to the throne and imprisoned or blinded his other sons, without encountering any opposition from the nobles. Soon after this, Kafur was killed by the palace guards, and a Hindu convert, Khusrau, ascended the throne. However, in 1320, a group of officers led by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq raised the banner of revolt. They broke out into open rebellion, and in a hard fought battle outside the capital, Khusrau was defeated and killed.
The Tughlaqs (1320—1412)
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq established a new dynasty which ruled till 1412. The Tughlaqs provided three competent rulers: Ghiyasuddin, his son Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1324—51), and his nephew Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351—88). The first two of these sultans ruled over an empire which comprised almost the entire country. The empire of Firuz was smaller but even then it was almost as large as that ruled over by Alauddin Khalji. After the death of Firuz, the Delhi Sultanat disintegrated and north India was divided into a series of small states. Although the Tughlaqs continued to rule till 1412, the invasion of Delhi by Timur in 1398 may be said to mark the end of the Tughlaq empire.
We shall first examine the remarkable expansion of the Delhi Sultanat from the time of Alauddin Khalji, then the various internal reforms in the Sultanat during the period, and the factors which led to the disintegration of the Sultanat.
Expansion of The Delhi Sultanat
We have seen how eastern Rajasthan, including Ajmer and some of its neighbouring territories, had come under the control of the Delhi Sultanat, though from the time of Balban, Ranthambhor, which was the most powerful Rajput state, had gone out of its control. Jalaluddin had undertaken an invasion of Ranthambhor but found the task too difficult for him. Thus, southern and western Rajasthan had remained outside the control of the Sultanat. With the rise to power of Alauddin Khalji, a new situation developed. Within a space of twenty-five years, the armies of the Delhi Sultanat not only brought Gujarat and Malwa under their control and subdued most of the princes in Rajasthan, they also overran the Deccan and south India upto Madurai. In due course, an attempt was made to bring this vast area under the direct administrative control of Delhi. The new phase of expansion was initiated by Alauddin Khalji and was continued under his successors, the climax being reached during the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
We have already seen how the Delhi Sultanat was gradually geared up for this renewed phase of expansion. At this time, Malwa, Gujarat and Deogir were being ruled by Rajput dynasties, most of which had come into existence towards the end of the twelfth and the beginning of the thirteenth century. Despite the establishment of the Turkish rule in the Ganga valley, these dynasties had hardly changed their old ways. Moreover, each one of them was contending for mastery over the entire region. So much so, when under Iltutmish the Turks attacked Gujarat, the rulers of both Malwa and Deogir attacked it from the south. In the Maratha region the rulers of Deogir were constantly at war with Warangal in the Telengana region, and with the Hoysalas in the Karnataka area. The Hoysalas, in turn, were at war with their neighbours, the Pandyas in Mabar (Tamil area). These rivalries not only made the conquest of Malwa and Gujarat easier, but tended to draw an invader further and further into the south.
The Turkish rulers had strong reasons for coveting Malwa and Gujarat. Not only were these areas fertile and populous, they controlled the western sea-ports and the trade routes connecting them with the Ganga valley. The overseas trade from Gujarat ports brought in a lot of gold and silver which had been accumulated by the rulers of the area. Another reason for the sultans of Delhi to establish their rule over Gujarat was that it could secure them a better control over the supply of horses to their armies. The import of Arabi, Iraqi and Turki horses to India from the western sca-ports had been an important item of trade since the eighth century.
Early in 1299, an army under two of Alauddin Khalji’s noted generals marched against Gujarat by way of Rajasthan. On their way, they raided and captured Jaisalmer also. The Gujarat ruler, Rai Karan, was taken by surprise, and fled without offering a fight. The chief cities of Gujarat, including Anhilwara where many beautiful buildings and temples had been built over generations, were sacked. The famous temple of Somnath which had been rebuilt in the twelfth century was also plundered and sacked. An enormous booty was collected. Nor were the wealthy Muslim merchants of Cambay spared. It was here that Malik Kafur, who later led the invasions of south India, was captured. He was presented to Alauddin, and soon rose in his estimation.
Gujarat now passed under the control of Delhi. With the help of Ramachandra, the ruler of Deogir, the ousted ruler Rai Karan, managed to hold on to a portion of south Gujarat. As we shall see, this provided an additional cause of war between Delhi and the Yadavas of Deogir.
After the conquest of Gujarat, Alauddin turned his attention to the consolidation of his rule over Rajasthan. The first to invite his attention was Ranthambhor which was being ruled by the Chauhan successors of Prithviraj. Its ruler, Hamirdeva, had embarked on a series of war-like expeditions against his neighbours. He is credited with having won victories against Raja Bhoj of Dhar, and the Rana of Mewar. Two of the Mongol Nobles who rebelled against Alauddin over war booty fled for refuge to Ranthambhor. Alauddin sent messages to Hamirdeva to kill or expel the Mongol nobles. But Hamir Deva denied. Ranthambhor was reputed to be the strongest fort in Rajasthan and had earlier defied Jalaluddin Khalji. Alauddin marched against Ranthambhor. The famous poet, Amir Khusrau, who went along with Alauddin, has given a graphic description of the fort and its investment. After three months of close siege, the fearful jauhar ceremony took place: the women mounted the funeral pyre, and all the men came out to fight to the last. This is the first description we have of the jauhar in Persian. All the Mongols, too, died fighting with the Rajputs. This event took place in 1301.
Alauddin, next, turned his attention towards Chittor which, after Ranthambhor, was the most powerful state in Rajasthan. It was, therefore, necessary for Alauddin to subdue it. Apart from this, its ruler Ratan Singh had annoyed him by refusing permission to his armies to march to Gujarat through Mewar territories. Chittor also dominated the route from Ajmer to Malwa. There is a popular legend that Alauddin attacked Chittor because he coveted Padmini, the beautiful queen of Ratan Singh (as per Hindi poet Malik Muhammad Jaisi).
Alauddin closely invested Chittor. After a valiant resistance by the besieged for several months, Alauddin stormed the fort (1303). The Rajputs performed jauhar and most of the warriors died fighting. Padmini, and the other queens, also sacrificed their lives. But it seems that Ratan Singh was captured alive and kept a prisoner for some time. Chittor was assigned to Alauddin’s minor son, Khizr Khan, and a Muslim garrison was posted in the fort. After some time, its charge was handed over to a cousin of Ratan Singh.
Alauddin also overran Jalor which lay on the route to Gujarat. Almost all the other major states in Rajasthan were forced to submit. However, it seems that Alauddin did not try to establish direct administration over the Rajput states. The Rajput rulers were allowed to rule but had to pay regular tribute, and to obey the orders of the sultan. Muslim garrisons were posted in some of the important towns, such as Ajmer, Nagaur, etc. Thus, Rajasthan was thoroughly subdued.
Deccan and South India
Even before completing the subjugation of Rajasthan, Alauddin had conquered Malwa which, says Amir Khusrau, was so extensive that even wise geographers were unable to delimit its frontiers. Unlike Rajasthan, Malwa was brought under direct administration, and a governor was appointed to look after it.
In 1306—07, Alauddin planned two campaigns. The first was against Rai Karan who after his expulsion from Gujarat, had been holding Baglana on the border of Malwa. Rai Karan fought bravely, but he could not resist for long. The second expedition was aimed against Rai Ramachandra, the ruler of Deogir, who had been in alliance with Rai Karan. Rai Ramachandra who surrendered to Malik Kafur (Alauddin’s slave) was honourably treated and carried to Delhi where, after some time, he was restored to his dominions with the title of Rai Rayan. The alliance with Rai Ramachandra was to prove to be of great value to Alauddin in his further aggrandisement in the Deccan.
Between 1309 and 1311, Malik Kafur led two campaigns in south India—the first against Warangal in the Telengana area and the other against Dwar Samudra (modern Karnataka), Mabar and Madurai (Tamil Nadu). These expeditions greatly raised Kafur in public estimation, and Alauddin appointed him malik-naib or vice-regent of the empire. Politically, however, the effects of these campaigns were limited. Kafur was able to force the rulers of Warangal and Dwar Samudra to sue for peace, to surrender all their treasures and elephants, and to promise an annual tribute. Kafur had plundered as much as he could including a number of wealthy temples, such as those at Chidambaram. But he had to return to Delhi without being able to defeat the Tamil armies.
After the death of Alauddin, Mubarak Shah succeeded the throne. He subdued Deogir again, and installed a Muslim governor there. He also raided Warangal, and compelled the ruler to cede one of his districts, and pay an annual tribute of forty gold bricks. Khusrau Khan, a slave of the sultan, made a plundering raid into Mabar and sacked the rich city of Masulipatnam. No conquests were made in the area.
Following the accession of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320, a sustained and vigorous forward policy was embarked upon. The sultan’s son, Muhammad bin Tughlaq, was posted to Deogir for the purpose. On the excuse that the ruler of Warangal had not paid the stipulated tribute, Muhammad bin Tughlaq besieged Warangal again. This was followed by the conquest of Mabar which was also annexed. Muhammad bin Tughlaq then raided Orissa, and returned to Delhi with rich plunder. Next year, he subdued Bengal which had been independent since the death of Balban.
Thus, by 1324, the territories of the Delhi Sultanat reached up to Madurai. The last Hindu principality in the area, Kampili in south Karnataka, was annexed in 1328. A cousin of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, who had rebelled, had been given shelter there, thus providing a convenient excuse for attacking it.
The sudden expansion of the Delhi Sultanat to the far south and to the east, including Orissa, created tremendous administrative and financial problems which had to be faced by Muhammad bin Tughlaq. We shall now turn to a study of the manner in which he tried to cope with these problems, and the strains which it imposed on the Sultanat itself.
Internal Reforms and Experiments
By the time Alauddin Khalji came to the throne, the position of the Delhi Sultanat was fairly well consolidated in the central portion of the empire, i.e., the portion comprising the upper Ganga valley and eastern Rajasthan. This emboldened the sultans to undertake a series of internal reforms and experiments, aimed at improving the administration, strengthening the army, gearing up the machinery of land revenue administration, taking steps to expand and improve cultivation and providing for the welfare of the citizens in the rapidly expanding towns. Not all the measures were successful, but they mark important new departures. Some of the experiments failed on account of lack of experience, some because they were not well conceived, or on account of opposition of vested interests. They do, however, show that the Turkish state had now acquired a measure of stability, and that it was no longer concerned merely with warfare and law and order.
Market Control and Agrarian Policy of Alauddin
For contemporaries, Alauddin’s measures to control the markets was one of the great wonders of the world. Alauddin sought to fix the cost of almost all commodities. Market was under the control of a high officer called shahna who maintained a register of the merchants, and strictly controlled the shopkeepers and the prices. Further, In order to ensure a regular supply of cheap foodgrains, he declared that the land revenue in the doab region, that is, the area extending from Meerut near the Yamuna to the border of Kara near Allahabad would be paid directly to the state, i.e., the villages in the area would not be assigned in iqta to anyone. By raising the state demand, and generally obliging the peasants to pay it in cash, the peasants were forced to sell their foodgrains at a low price to banjaras who were to carry them to the towns, and to sell them at prices fixed by the state. To ensure that there was no hoarding, all the banjaras were registered, and their agents and their family were held collectively responsible for any violations. As a further check, the state itself set up warehouses and stocked them with foodgrains which were released whenever there was a famine or a threat of a shortfall in supply. Alauddin kept himself constantly informed of everything and very harsh punishment was given if any shopkeeper charged a higher price, or tried to cheat by using false weights and measures.
Price of horses was also controlled as required to maintain large army. The position of the supply of horses had improved as a result of the conquest of Gujarat. Good quality horses could be sold only to the state. The prices of cattle as well as of slaves were strictly regulated. This shows that slavery was accepted in medieval India as a normal feature. We are told that large sums of money were advanced to the Multani traders for bringing fine quality cloth to Delhi from various parts of the country. As a result, Delhi became the biggest market for fine cloth, the price of which was fixed and traders from all places flocked to Delhi in order to buy it and sell it at a higher price elsewhere.
Realization of land revenue in cash enabled Alauddin to pay his soldiers in cash. He was the first sultan in the Sultanat to do so.
Apart from the control of the market, Alauddin took important steps in the field of land revenue administration. He was the first monarch in the Sultanat who insisted that in the doab, land revenue would be assessed on the basis of measuring the land under cultivation. This implied that the rich and the powerful in the villages who had more land could not pass on their burden to the poor. Alauddin wanted that the landlords of the area—called khuts and muqaddams, should pay the same taxes as the others. Thus, they had to pay taxes on milch cattle and houses like the others, and forgo other illegal cesses which they were in the habit of realizing.
Barani writes as if all the measures mentioned above were directed solely against the Hindus (mostly merchants). But these can hardly be considered as socialistic measures. They were basically designed to meet an emergency situation, viz., the danger posed by the Mongols. Perhaps, it would have been better for Alauddin to have controlled only the price of essential commodities, such as food-grains, etc. But price of almost all commodities were controlled. These led to vexatious laws which were sought to be violated and led to drastic punishments and resentment. Alauddin’s agrarian policy was certainly harsh and must have affected the ordinary cultivators also. But it was not so burdensome as to drive them into rebellion, or flight.
The market regulations of Alauddin came to an end with his death, but it did achieve a number of gains. We are told by Barani that the regulations enabled Alauddin to raise a large and efficient cavalry which enabled him to defeat the subsequent Mongol onslaughts, with great slaughter, and to drive them beyond the Indus. The land revenue reforms of Alauddin marked an important step towards closer relationship with the rural areas. Some of his measures were continued by his successors, and later provided a basis for the agrarian reforms of Sher Shah and Akbar.
Muhammad Tughlaq’s Experiments
Next to Alauddin Khalji, Muhammad binTughlaq (1324—51) is best remembered as a ruler who undertook a number of bold experiments, and showed a keen interest in agriculture.
In some ways, Muhammad bin Tughlaq was one of the most remarkable rulers of his age. But most of this experiments failed, and he has been dubbed an ‘ill starred idealist’.
The most controversial step which Muhammad Tughlaq undertook soon after his accession was the so-called transfer of the capital from Delhi to Deogir. It appears that the sultan wanted to make Deogir a second capital so that he might be able to control south India better. For this purpose, he ordered many of the officers and their followers and leading men, including many Sufi saints, to shift to Deogir which was renamed Daulatabad. Liberal grants were also provided to them, and arrangements made for their stay at Daulatabad. However, there was a good deal of discontent. After a couple of years, Muhammad Tughlaq decided to abandon Daulatabad, largely because he soon found that just as he could not control the south from Delhi, he could not control north India from Daulatabad.
Another step which Muhammad Tughlaq took at this time was the introduction of the ‘token currency’. Since money is merely a medium of exchange, all countries in the world today have token currencies—generally paper currency, so that they do not have to depend upon the supply of gold and silver. Muhammad Tughlaq decided to introduce a bronze coin which was to have the same value as the silver tanka. The idea of a token currency was a new one in India, and it was difficult to induce the traders as well as the common man to accept it. Muhammad Tughlaq might still have been successful if the government had been able to prevent people from forging the new coins. The government was not able to do so, and soon the new coins began to be greatly devalued in the markets. Finally Muhammad Tughlaq decided to withdraw the token currency. He promised to exchange silver pieces for bronze coins. In this way many people exchanged the new coins. But the forged coins which could be found out from tests were not exchanged. These coins were heaped up outside the fort and, Barani says, they remained lying there for many years.
After coming back from Deogir, the sultan recruited a large army in order to occupy Ghazni and Afghanistan. Barani says that his object was to occupy Khurasan and Iraq. After a year, and following the failure of the experiment of establishing a token currency, and improvement of relations with the Mongols, the army was disbanded.
The effects of the Khurasan project should not be exaggerated, or confused with the Qarachil expedition. This expedition was launched in the Kumaon hills in the Himalayas. After some success, the armies went too far into the inhospitable region of the Himalayas, and suffered a disaster. We are told that from an army of 10,000, only 10 persons returned. However, it seems that the hill rajas accepted the overlordship of Delhi. Subsequently Muhammad Tughlaq undertook an expedition in the Kangra hills also. Thus, the hill regions were fully secured.
Agrarian Reforms and Nobility
Muhammad Tughlaq undertook a number of measures to improve agriculture. Most of these were tried out in the doab region. Muhammad Tughlaq did not believe in Alauddin Khalji’s policy of trying to reduce the khuts and muqaddams (headmen in the villages) to the position of ordinary cultivators. But he did want an adequate share of the land revenue for the state. The measures he advocated had a longterm impact, but they failed disastrously during his reign.
Right at the beginning of Muhammad Tughlaq’s reign, there was a serious peasant rebellion in the Gangetic doab. Historians are of the opinion that the trouble started due to over-assessment. Although the share of state remained half as in the time of Alauddin, it was fixed arbitrarily, not on the basis of actual produce. Prices were also fixed artificially for converting the produce into money. A severe famine which ravaged the area for half a dozen years made the situation worse.
Later, Muhammad Tughlaq launched a scheme to extend and improve cultivation in the doab. He set up a separate department called diwan-i-amir-i-kohi. The area was divided into development blocs headed by an official whose job was to extend cultivation by giving loans to the cultivators. The scheme failed largely because the men chosen for the purpose proved to be inexperienced and dishonest, and misappropriated the money for their own use. The large sums of money advanced for the project could not be recovered. Fortunately for all concerned, Muhammad Tughlaq had died in the meantime, and Firuz wrote off the loans. But the policy advocated by Muhammad Tughlaq for extending and improving cultivation was not lost. It was taken up by Firuz, and even more vigorously later on by Akbar.
Another problem which Muhammad Tughlaq had to face was the problem of the nobility. With the downfall of the Chahalgani Turks, and the rise of the Khaljis, the nobility was drawn from Muslims belonging to different races, including Indian converts. Muhammad Tughlaq went a step further. He entertained people who did not belong to noble families, but belonged to castes such as barbers, cooks, weavers, wine-makers, etc. Thus, the nobility of Muhammad Tughlaq consisted of many divergent sections. No sense of cohesion could develop among them, nor any sense of loyalty towards the sultan. Thus, the reign of Muhammad bin Tughlaq, while marking the zenith of the Delhi Sultanat, also saw the beginning of the process of its disintegration.
Iii. Decline and Disintegration of The Delhi Sultanat: Firuz and His Successors
During the latter half of Muhammad Tughlaq’s reign, there were repeated rebellions in different parts of the empire. Rebellions by ambitious nobles, particularly in the outlying areas, were not a new feature. In most cases, the sultans had been able to suppress them with the help of the central army and a band of loyal nobles. Muhammad Tughlaq’s difficulties were several. The rebellions took place one after another in different parts of the empire—in Bengal, in Mabar (Tamil Nadu), in Warangal, in Kampili (Karnataka), in West Bengal, in Awadh, and in Gujarat and Sindh. Muhammad Tughlaq did not trust any one, at least not sufficiently. So, he dashed from one part of the country to the other to suppress the rebellions and wore out his armies. The rebellions in south India were the most serious. At first, rebellions in these areas were organised by the local governors. The sultan hurried to south India. After some time, plague broke out in the army. We are told that two-thirds of the army perished in this plague. This was a blow from which Muhammad Tughlaq could never recover. Soon after the return of the sultan from south India, there was another rebellion there, led by two brothers, Harihara and Bukka. They set up a principality which gradually expanded. This was the Vijayanagara empire which soon embraced the entire south. Further north, in the Deccan, some foreign nobles set up a principality near Daulatabad which expanded into the Bahmani empire. We shall trace the achievements of these two remarkable empires in a subsequent chapter. Bengal also became independent. With a great effort, Muhammad Tughlaq was able to quell the rebellions in Awadh, Gujarat and Sind. While still in Sind, Muhammad Tughlaq died, and was succeeded by his cousin, Firuz Tughlaq.
Muhammad Tughlaq’s policies had created deep discontent among the nobles as well as in the army. He had also clashed with Muslim theologians and the sufi saints who were very influential.
After his accession, Firuz Tughlaq was faced with the problem of preventing the imminent break-up of the Delhi Sultanat. He adopted a policy of trying to appease the nobles, the army and the theologians, and of asserting his authority over only such areas which could be easily administrated from the centre. He, therefore, made no attempt to re-assert his authority over south India and the Deccan. He led two campaigns into Bengal, but was unsuccessful in both. Bengal was, thus, lost to the Sultanat. Firuz led a campaign against the ruler of Jajnagar (Orissa). He desecrated the temples there and gathered a rich plunder, but made no attempt to annex Orissa. He also led a campaign against Kangra in the Punjab hills. His longest campaigns were to deal with rebellions in Gujarat and Thatta. Although the rebellions were crushed, the army suffered great hardship due to losing its way in the Rann of Kutch.
He reversed harsh policies to appease nobles. He made nobility heredtitary, including his iqta. Firuz abolished the practice of torturing nobles and their officials if any balance was found against them at the time of auditing the accounts of their iqta. However, in the long run, the policy of making offices and iqta hereditary was bound to be harmful. It reduced the chance of competent men being recruited into the service outside a small circle, and made the sultan dependent on a narrow oligarchy.
Firuz extended the principle of heredity to the army as well. The soldiers were not to be paid in cash, but by assignments on the land revenue of villages. The entire military administration became lax, and soldiers were allowed to pass useless horses at the muster by bribing the clerks. In a mistaken view of generosity, the sultan himself once gave money to a soldier to bribe the clerk of the muster.
Firuz tried to win over the theologians by proclaiming that he was a true Muslim king, and that the state under him was a truly Islamic state. Actually, right from the time of iltutmish’s accession to the throne, there was a tussle between the orthodox theologians and the sultans regarding the nature of the state, and the policy to be adopted by the state towards the non-Muslims. As has been stated earlier, from the time of Iltutmish, and especially under Alauddin and Muhammad Tughlaq, the Turkish rulers did not allow the theologians to dictate the policy of the state. They waged jihad against the Hindu rulers, whenever it was convenient for them to do so. In order to keep the theologians satisfied, a number of them were appointed to high offices. The judiciary and the educational system, of course, remained in the hands of the theologians.
He tried to ban practices which the orthodox theologians considered un-Islamic. He persecuted a number of Muslim sects which were considered heretical by the theologians. It was during the time of Firuz that jizyah became a separate tax. Earlier, it was a part of land revenue. Firuz refused to exempt the Brahmans from the payment of jizyah since this was not provided for in the sharia. Only women, children, the disabled and the indigent who had no means of livelihood were exempt from it. Worse, he publicly burnt a Brahman for preaching to the people, including Muslims, on the ground that it was against the sharia. On the same ground, he even ordered that the beautiful wall paintings in his palace be erased. However, he patronized music, and despite his orthodoxy, was fond of wine.
These narrow views of Firuz Tughlaq were certainly harmful. At the same time, Firuz Tughlaq was the first ruler who took steps to have Hindu religious works translated from Sanskrit into Persian, so that there may be a better understanding of Hindu ideas and practices. Many books on music, medicine and mathematics were also translated from Sanskrit into Persian during his reign.
Firuz was keenly interested in the economic improvement of the country. He set up a large department of public works which looked after his building programme. Firuz repaired and dug a number of canals. These and other canals were meant for irrigation purposes, and also for providing water to some of the new towns which Firuz built. These towns, Hissar-Firuzah or Hissar (in modern Haryana) and Firuzabad (in modern Uttar Pradesh) exist even today.
Another step which Firuz took was both economic and political in nature. He ordered his officials that whenever they attacked a place, they should select handsome and well-born young boys and send them to the sultan as slaves. In this way, Firuz gradually gathered about 1,80,000 slaves. Some of these he trained for carrying on various handicrafts, and posted them in the royal workshops (karkhanas) all over the empire. From others he formed a corps of soldiers who would be directly dependent on the sultan and hence, he hoped, would be completely loyal to him
When Firuz died in 1388, Sultan Muhammad, son of Firuz, was able to stabilize his position. However, neither he nor his successor, Nasiruddin Mahmud, who ruled from 1394 to 1412, could control the ambitious nobles and the intransigent rajas. Perhaps, the major reason for this were the reforms of Firuz which had made the nobility too strong and the army inefficient. The governors of provinces became independent, and gradually the sultan of Delhi was confined virtually to a small area surrounding Delhi.
The weakness of the Delhi Sultanat was made even worse by Timur’s invasion of Delhi (1398), Timur, who was a Turk but could claim a blood relationship with Changez. The raid into India was a plundering raid, and its motive was to seize the wealth accumulated by the sultans of Delhi over the last 200 years. With the collapse of the Delhi Sultanat, there was no one to meet this incursion. Timur’s army mercilessly sacked and plundered the various towns on the way to Delhi.
The responsibility for the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanat cannot be ascribed to any one ruler. We have seen that there were some persistent problems during the medieval times, such as the relations between the monarch and the nobles, the conflict with local rulers and zamindars, the pull of regional and geographical factors, etc. Disintegration of the political fabric was, thus, just beneath the surface and any weakness in the central administration set off a chain of events leading to political disintegration. Firuz was able to contain the chain reactions which had set in due to the over-extension of the empire under Ghiyasuddin and Muhammad Tughlaq. He instituted a series of reforms aimed at appeasing the nobles and the soldiers which, however, weakened the central machinery of administration as we have seen.
The period from 1200 to 1400 saw many new features in Indian life, viz., the system of government, changes in the life and condition of the people, and the development of art and architecture. These will be the subject of another chapter: