The Bengal Sultanate (Bangalah; Sultanate of Bengal) was a sultanate of Islamic India which ruled in modern South Asia and Southeast Asia. It was established by the conqueror Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah in 1352. It was one of the great powers of Medieval India, ruling over what is now Bangladesh, the Indian state of West Bengal and the Arakan region of Burma. Its principal cities were Lakhnauti, Sonargaon and Pandua; along with dozens of provincial capitals known as mint towns, where the sultanate's currency was produced. At the time, Europeans called it Bengala, such as in the Portuguese trading post of Porto Grande de Bengala.
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|Capital||Lakhnauti and Sonargaon|
|•||Unification of Bengal||1352|
|Today part of||Bangladesh, India, Myanmar|
The Delhi Sultanate lost its hold over Bengal in 1338 when separatist states were established by governors, including Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah in Sonargaon, Alauddin Ali Shah in Lakhnauti and Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah in Satgaon. In 1352, Ilyas Shah defeated the rulers of Sonargaon and Lakhnauti and united the Bengal region into an independent kingdom. He founded the Turkic Ilyas Shahi dynasty which ruled Bengal until 1490. During this time, much of the agricultural land was controlled by Hindu zamindars, which caused tensions with Muslims. The Ilyas Shahi rule was challenged by Raja Ganesha, a powerful Hindu landowner, who briefly managed to place his son on the throne in the early 15th century, before the Ilyas Shahi dynasty was restored in 1432. The late 1480s saw the rise of the Abyssinian slave dynasty of Bengal. People from Abyssinia (Ethiopia) were brought by the Ilyas Shahis as slaves to serve in the king's army. Four Abyssian kings gained the throne in succession. Tensions between different Muslim communities often affected the kingdom, including Sunni-Shia tension, Persian-Afghan tension and the persecution of Abyssinians by the Hussain Shahi dynasty, which ultimately led to their expulsion from Bengal.
After a period of instability, Alauddin Hussain Shah gained control of Bengal in 1494 after serving as prime minister under the Abyssinian sultans. Hussain Shah ruled till 1519. The dynasty he founded reigned till 1538. Muslims and Hindus jointly served in the royal administration during the Hussain Shahi dynasty. This era is often regarded as a golden age of the Bengal Sultanate, in which Bengali territory included areas of Arakan, Orissa, Tripura and Assam. The sultanate gave permission for establishing the Portuguese settlement in Chittagong. Sher Shah Suri conquered Bengal in the 16th century, during which he renovated the Grand Trunk Road. After conquering Bengal, Sher Shah Suri proceeded to Agra.
The absorption of Bengal into the Mughal Empire was a gradual process beginning with the defeat of Bengali forces under Sultan Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah by Babur at the Battle of Ghaghra and ending with the Battle of Raj Mahal where the Pashtun Karrani dynasty, the last reigning Sultans of Bengal, were defeated.
The Bengal Sultanate was an absolute monarchy. The Ilyas Shahi dynasty promoted a Persianate society. It copied the pre-Muslim Persian tradition of monarchy and statecraft. The courts of the capital cities sanctified the sultan, used Persianized royal paraphernalia, adopted an elaborate court ceremony modeled on the Sasanian imperial paradigm, employed a hierarchical bureaucracy, and promoted Islam as the state religion. The rise of Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah saw more native elements inducted in the courts. The Hussain Shahi dynasty employed many Hindus in the government and promoted a form of religious pluralism.
Military strength was the existential basis of medieval kingdoms in Bengal and other parts of India. The sultans had a well-organised army, including cavalry, artillery, infantry and war elephants; and a navy. Due to the riverine geography and climate, it was not feasible to use cavalry through out the year in Bengal. The cavalry was probably the weakest component of the Bengal Sultanate's army, as the horses had to be imported from foreign countries. The artillery was an important section. Portuguese historian João de Barros opined that the military supremacy of Bengal over Arakan and Tripura was due to its efficient artillery. The artillery used cannons and guns of various sizes.
The paiks formed the vital part of the Bengal infantry during this period. There were occasions when the paiks also tackled political situations. The particular battle array of the foot-soldiers who used bows, arrows and guns attracted the attention of Babur.
War elephants played an important part in the Bengal army. Apart from carrying war materials, elephants were also used for the movement of the armed personnel. In riverine Bengal the usefulness of elephants, though very slow, could not be minimised. The navy was of prime necessity in riverine Bengal. In fact, the cavalry could ensure the hold over this country for a period of six months whereas the boats backed by the paiks could command supremacy over the other half of the year. Since the time of Iwaz Khalji, who first organised a naval force in Islamic Bengal, the war boats played an important role in the political affairs of the country. The chief of the admiralty had various responsibilities, including shipbuilding, river transport, to fit out strong boats for transporting war elephants; to recruit seamen; to patrol the rivers and to collect tolls at ghats. The efficiency of the navy eroded during the Hussain Shahi dynasty. The sultans also built forts, including temporary mud walled forts.
|Name of Conflict||Belligerents||Outcome|
|Bengal Sultanate-Delhi Sultanate War (1353–1359)||Velanati Chodas||Delhi Sultanate||Victory
|Bengal Sultanate-Jaunpur Sultanate War (1415-1420)||Timurid Empire
|Reconquest of Arakan (1429-1430)||Launggyet||Burmese Kingdoms||Victory
|Bengal Sultanate–Kamata Kingdom War (1498)||Kamata Kingdom||Victory
|Bengal Sultanate-Kingdom of Mrauk U War of 1512-1516||Kingdom of Mrauk U||Victory|
|Battle of Ghaghra
|Eastern Afghan Confederates||Mughal Empire||Defeat
|Battle of Raj Mahal
Currency and mint townsEdit
The Taka was the currency of the Bengal Sultanate. Locations hosting a mint also served as provincial capitals, known as mint towns. The following includes a partial listing of mint towns in the Bengal Sultanate.
- Ghiaspur (Mymensingh)
- Firuzabad (Pandua)
- Shahr-i-Naw (Pandua)
- Muzzamabad (Sonargaon)
- Jannatabad (Lakhnauti)
- Fathabad (Faridpur)
- Chatgaon (Chittagong)
- Rotaspur (Bihar)
- Mahmudabad (Jessore and Nadia)
- Barbakaabad (Dinajpur)
- Muzaffarabad (Pandua)
- Husaynabad (24 Parganas)
- Chandrabad (Murshidabad)
- Nusratabad (Bogra and Rangpur)
- Khalifatabad (Bagerhat)
- Badarpur (Bagerhat)
- Sharifabad (Birbhum)
- Tandah (Malda)
The only eastern political and economic pole of Islamic India was Bengal. Like the Gujarat Sultanate, it was open to the sea and accumulated profits from trade with agricultural incomes. Traders from around the world were present in the Bay of Bengal area, which included the Ganges-Brahmaputra delta and the Irrawaddy delta. Bengal's position as a major cotton textile exporter was unique in Islamic India.
Muslim poets were writing in the Bengali language by the 15th century. By the turn of the 16th century, a vernacular literature based on concepts of Sufism and Islamic cosmology flourished in the region. Bengali Muslim mystic literature was one of the most original in Islamic India.
And with the three cups of wine, this dispute is going on.
All the poets of Hindustan have become excited
With Persian as an official language, Bengal witnessed an influx of Persian scholars, lawyers, teachers and clerics. It was the preferred language of the aristocracy and the Sufis. Thousands of Persian books and manuscripts were published in Bengal. The earliest Persian work compiled in Bengal was a translation of Amrtakunda from Sanskrit by Qadi Ruknu'd-Din Abu Hamid Muhammad bin Muhammad al-'Amidi of Samarqand, a famous Hanafi jurist and Sufi. During the reign of Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah, the city of Sonargaon became an important centre of Persian literature, with many publications of prose and poetry. The period is described as the "golden age of Persian literature in Bengal". Its stature is illustrated by the Sultan's own correspondence with the Persian poet Hafez. When the Sultan invited Hafez to complete an incomplete ghazal by the ruler, the renowned poet responded acknowledging the grandeur of the king's court and the literary quality of Bengali-Persian poetry.
In the 15th century, the Sufi poet Nur Qutb Alam pioneered Bengali Muslim poetry by establishing the Rikhta tradition, which saw poems written half in Persian and half in colloquial Bengali. The invocation tradition saw Islamic figures replacing the invocation of Hindu gods and goddesses in Bengali texts. The literary romantic tradition saw poems by Shah Muhammad Sagir on Yusuf and Zulaikha, as well as works of Bahram Khan and Sabirid Khan. The Dobhashi culture featured the use of Arabic and Persian words in Bengali texts to illustrate Muslim conquests. Epic poetry included Nabibangsha by Syed Sultan, Janganama by Abdul Hakim and Rasul Bijay by Shah Barid. Sufi literature flourished with a dominant theme of cosmology. Bengali Muslim writers produced translations of numerous Arabic and Persian works, including the Thousand and One Nights and the Shahnameh.
While other Muslim kingdoms in the subcontinent imitated Persian architecture, the Bengal Sultanate encouraged a distinctive local style. A distinct Bengali-Islamic architecture developed during its reign, which combined indigenous traditions with influences from Persia and Byzantium. It featured multiple and single domed mosques with complex terracotta and stone ornamentation. The most grand testament to their imperial ambitions is reflected in the ruins of the Adina Mosque, the largest mosque ever built in the Indian subcontinent. The mosque has a plan similar to the Great Mosque of Damascus and elements of the pre-Islamic Sassanid Taq Kasra monument. The Mosque City of Bagerhat is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Sultanate-mosques are scattered throughout Bangladesh and West Bengal.
List of SultansEdit
Ilyas Shahi dynasty (1342-1414)Edit
|Shamsuddin Ilyas Shah||1342–1358||Became the first sole ruler of whole Bengal comprising Sonargaon, Satgaon and Lakhnauti.|
|Sikandar Shah||1358–1390||Assassinated by his son and successor, Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah|
|Ghiyasuddin Azam Shah||1390–1411|
|Saifuddin Hamza Shah||1411–1413|
|Muhammad Shah bin Hamza Shah||1413||Assassinated by his father's slave Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah on the orders of the landlord of Dinajpur, Raja Ganesha|
|Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah||1413–1414|
|Alauddin Firuz Shah I||1414||Son of Shihabuddin Bayazid Shah. Assassinated by Raja Ganesha|
House of Raja Ganesha (1414-1435)Edit
|Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah||1415–1416||Son of Raja Ganesha and converted into Islam|
|Raja Ganesha||1416–1418||Second Phase|
|Jalaluddin Muhammad Shah||1418–1433||Second Phase|
|Shamsuddin Ahmad Shah||1433–1435|
Restored Ilyas Shahi dynasty (1435-1487)Edit
|Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah I||1435–1459|
|Rukunuddin Barbak Shah||1459–1474|
|Shamsuddin Yusuf Shah||1474–1481|
|Sikandar Shah II||1481|
|Jalaluddin Fateh Shah||1481–1487|
Habshi rule (1487-1494)Edit
|Saifuddin Firuz Shah||1487–1489|
|Mahmud Shah II||1489–1490|
|Shamsuddin Muzaffar Shah||1490–1494|
Hussain Shahi dynasty (1494-1538)Edit
|Alauddin Hussain Shah||1494–1518|
|Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah||1518–1533|
|Alauddin Firuz Shah II||1533|
|Ghiyasuddin Mahmud Shah||1533–1538|
|Khidr Khan||1539–1541||Declared independence in 1541 and was replaced|
|Muhammad Khan Sur||1545–1554||Declared independence upon the death of Islam Shah Suri|
Muhammad Shah dynasty (1554-1564)Edit
|Muhammad Khan Sur||1554–1555||Declared independence and styled himself as Shamsuddin Muhammad Shah|
|Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah I||1555–1561|
|Ghiyasuddin Jalal Shah||1561–1563|
|Ghiyasuddin Bahadur Shah II||1563-1564|
Karrani dynasty (1564-1576)Edit
|Taj Khan Karrani||1564–1566|
|Sulaiman Khan Karrani||1566–1572|
|Bayazid Khan Karrani||1572|
|Daud Khan Karrani||1572–1576|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sultanate of Bengal.|
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Shah-i-Bangalah, Shah-i-Bangaliyan and Sultan-i-Bangalah
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- Hasan, Perween (2007). Sultans and Mosques: The Early Muslim Architecture of Bangladesh. I.B.Tauris. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-84511-381-0.
- Yegar, Moshe (2002). Between Integration and Secession: The Muslim Communities of the Southern Philippines, Southern Thailand, and Western Burma/Myanmar. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books. p. 23–24. ISBN 978-0-7391-0356-2.
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