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The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim sultanate based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526).[4][5] Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414),[6] the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). Three dynasties (Mamluk, Khilji and Sayyid) were of Turkic origin, one dynasty (Tughlaq) was of Turko-Indian origin,[7] and the last dynasty (Lodi) was of Pathan origin.[8] The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack by the Mongol Empire,[9] and enthroned one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240.[10]

Delhi Sultanate
Delhi Sultanate under various dynasties.
Capital Lahore (1206–1210)
Badayun (1210–1214)
Delhi (1214–1327)
Daulatabad (1327–1334)
Delhi (1334–1506)
Agra (1506–1526)
Languages Persian (official),[1] Hindavi (since 1451)[2]
Religion Sunni Islam (1206-1320; 1320-1526) Hinduism (1320)
Government Sultanate
 •  1206–1210 Qutb al-Din Aibak (first)
 •  1517–1526 Ibrahim Lodi (last)
Historical era Ages[clarification needed]
 •  Independence[3] 12 June 1206
 •  Battle of Amroha 20 December 1305
 •  Battle of Panipat 21 April 1526
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Ghurid dynasty
Paramara dynasty
Deva dynasty
Seuna (Yadava) dynasty
Vaghela dynasty
Mughal Empire
Today part of

Qutb al-Din Aibak, a former slave of Muhammad Ghori, was the first sultan of Delhi and his dynasty conquered large areas of northern India. Afterwards, the Khilji dynasty was also able to conquer most of central India, but both failed to unite the Indian subcontinent. The sultanate reached the peak of its geographical reach during the Tughlaq dynasty, occupying most of the Indian subcontinent.[11] This was followed by decline due to Hindu rebellions, states such as the Vijayanagara Empire asserting independence, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate breaking off.[12][13]

During the Delhi Sultanate, there was a synthesis of Indian civilization with that of Islamic civilization, and the integration of the Indian subcontinent into a growing world system and wider international networks spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, which had a significant impact on Indian culture and society.[14] The time of their rule included the earliest forms of Indo-Islamic architecture,[15][16] increased growth rates in India's population and economy,[17] and the emergence of the Hindi-Urdu language.[18] The Delhi Sultanate was also responsible for repelling the Mongol Empire's potentially devastating invasions of India in the 13th and 14th centuries.[19] However, the Delhi Sultanate also caused destruction and desecration of politically important temples in South Asia.[20] In 1526, the Sultanate was conquered and succeeded by the Mughal Empire.



The context behind the rise of the Delhi Sultanate in India was part of a wider trend affecting much of the Asian continent, including the whole of southern and western Asia: the influx of nomadic Turkic peoples from the Central Asian steppes. This can be traced back to the 9th century, when the Islamic Caliphate began fragmenting in the Middle East, where Muslim rulers in rival states began enslaving non-Muslim nomadic Turks from the Central Asian steppes, and raising many of them to become loyal military slaves called Mamluks. Soon, Turks were migrating to Muslim lands and becoming Islamicized. Many of the Turkic Mamluk slaves eventually rose up to become rulers, and conquered large parts of the Muslim world, establishing Mamluk Sultanates from Egypt to Afghanistan, before turning their attention to the Indian subcontinent.[19]

It is also part of a longer trend predating the spread of Islam. Like other settled, agrarian societies in history, those in the Indian subcontinent have been attacked by nomadic tribes throughout its long history. In evaluating the impact of Islam on the subcontinent, one must note that the northwestern subcontinent was a frequent target of tribes raiding from Central Asia in the pre-Islamic era. In that sense, the Muslim intrusions and later Muslim invasions were not dissimilar to those of the earlier invasions during the 1st millennium.[21]

By 962 AD, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in South Asia were under a wave of raids from Muslim armies from Central Asia.[22] Among them was Mahmud of Ghazni, the son of a Turkic Mamluk military slave,[23] who raided and plundered kingdoms in north India from east of the Indus river to west of Yamuna river seventeen times between 997 and 1030.[24] Mahmud of Ghazni raided the treasuries but retracted each time, only extending Islamic rule into western Punjab.[25][26]

The wave of raids on north Indian and western Indian kingdoms by Muslim warlords continued after Mahmud of Ghazni.[27] The raids did not establish or extend permanent boundaries of their Islamic kingdoms. The Ghurid sultan Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori, commonly known as Muhammad of Ghor, began a systematic war of expansion into north India in 1173.[28] He sought to carve out a principality for himself by expanding the Islamic world.[24][29] Muhammad of Ghor sought a Sunni Islamic kingdom of his own extending east of the Indus river, and he thus laid the foundation for the Muslim kingdom called the Delhi Sultanate.[24] Some historians chronicle the Delhi Sultanate from 1192 due to the presence and geographical claims of Muhammad Ghori in South Asia by that time.[30]

Ghori was assassinated in 1206, by Ismāʿīlī Shia Muslims in some accounts or by Hindu Khokhars in others.[31] After the assassination, one of Ghori's slaves (or mamluks, Arabic: مملوك), the Turkic Qutb al-Din Aibak, assumed power, becoming the first Sultan of Delhi.[24]


Mamluk / SlaveEdit

Qutb al-Din Aibak, a former slave of Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori (known more commonly as Muhammad of Ghor), was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. Aibak was of Cuman-Kipchak origin,[32] and due to his lineage, his dynasty is known as the Mamluk (Slave) dynasty (not to be confused with the Mamluk dynasty of Iraq or the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt).[33] Aibak reigned as the Sultan of Delhi for four years, from 1206 to 1210.

After Aibak died, Aram Shah assumed power in 1210, but he was assassinated in 1211 by Shams ud-Din Iltutmish.[34] Iltutmish's power was precarious, and a number of Muslim amirs (nobles) challenged his authority as they had been supporters of Qutb al-Din Aibak. After a series of conquests and brutal executions of opposition, Iltutmish consolidated his power.[35] His rule was challenged a number of times, such as by Qubacha, and this led to a series of wars.[36] Iltumish conquered Multan and Bengal from contesting Muslim rulers, as well as Ranthambore and Siwalik from the Hindu rulers. He also attacked, defeated, and executed Taj al-Din Yildiz, who asserted his rights as heir to Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori.[37] Iltutmish's rule lasted till 1236. Following his death, the Delhi Sultanate saw a succession of weak rulers, disputing Muslim nobility, assassinations, and short-lived tenures. Power shifted from Rukn ud-Din Firuz to Razia Sultana and others, until Ghiyas ud-Din Balban came to power and ruled from 1266 to 1287.[36][37] He was succeeded by 17-year-old Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad, who appointed Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khilji as the commander of the army. Khilji assassinated Qaiqabad and assumed power, thus ending the Mamluk dynasty and starting the Khilji dynasty.

Qutb al-Din Aibak initiated the construction of the Qutub Minar[38] and the Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque, now a UNESCO world heritage site.[39] It was built from the remains of twenty seven demolished Hindu and Jain temples. The Qutub Minar Complex or Qutb Complex was expanded by Iltutmish, and later by Ala ud-Din Khilji (the second ruler of the Khilji dynasty) in the early 14th century.[39][40] During the Mamluk dynasty, many nobles from Afghanistan and Persia migrated and settled in India, as West Asia came under Mongol siege.[41]


Alai Gate and Qutub Minar were built during the Mamluk and Khilji dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate.[39]

The first ruler of the Khilji dynasty was Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khilji. He came to power in 1290 after killing the last ruler of the Mamluk dynasty, Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad, at the behest of Turkic, Afghan, and Persian nobles. Jalal ud-Din Firuz was of Turkic origin, and ruled for 6 years before he was murdered in 1296 by his nephew and son-in-law Juna Muhammad Khilji,[42] who later came to be known as Ala ud-Din Khilji.

Ala ud-Din began his military career as governor of Kara province, from where he led two raids on Malwa (1292) and Devagiri (1294) for plunder and loot. His military campaigning returned to these lands as well other south Indian kingdoms after he assumed power. He conquered Gujarat, Ranthambore, Chittor, and Malwa.[43] However, these victories were cut short because of Mongol attacks and plunder raids from the northwest. The Mongols withdrew after plundering and stopped raiding northwest parts of the Delhi Sultanate.[44]

After the Mongols withdrew, Ala ud-Din Khilji continued expanding the Delhi Sultanate into southern India with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusro Khan. They collected lots of war booty (anwatan) from those they defeated.[45] His commanders collected war spoils and paid ghanima (Arabic: الْغَنيمَة, a tax on spoils of war), which helped strengthen the Khilji rule. Among the spoils was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamonds in human history, the Koh-i-noor.[46]

Ala ud-Din Khilji changed tax policies, raising agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% (payable in grain and agricultural produce), eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him, and he cut salaries of officials, poets, and scholars.[42] These tax policies and spending controls strengthened his treasury to pay the keep of his growing army; he also introduced price controls on all agriculture produce and goods in the kingdom, as well as controls on where, how, and by whom these goods could be sold. Markets called "shahana-i-mandi" were created.[47] Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these "mandis" to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Those found violating these "mandi" rules were severely punished, often by mutilation. Taxes collected in the form of grain were stored in the kingdom's storage. During famines that followed, these granaries ensured sufficient food for the army.[42]

Historians note Ala ud-Din Khilji as being a tyrant. Anyone Ala ud-Din suspected of being a threat to this power was killed along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 and 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising.[48] He is also known for his cruelty against kingdoms he defeated in battle.

After Ala ud-Din's death in 1316, his eunuch general Malik Kafur, who was born in a Hindu family in India and had converted to Islam, tried to assume power. He lacked the support of Persian and Turkic nobility and was subsequently killed.[42] The last Khilji ruler was Ala ud-Din Khilji's 18-year-old son Qutb ud-Din Mubarak Shah Khilji, who ruled for four years before he was killed by Khusro Khan, another of Ala ud-Din's generals. Khusro Khan's reign lasted only a few months, when Ghazi Malik, later to be called Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq, killed him and assumed power in 1320, thus ending the Khilji dynasty and starting the Tughlaq dynasty.[41][48]


Delhi Sultanate from 1321-1330 AD under the Tughlaq dynasty. After 1330, various regions rebelled against the Sultanate and the kingdom shrank.

The Tughlaq dynasty lasted from 1320 to nearly the end of 14th century. The first ruler Ghazi Malik rechristened himself as Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq and is also referred to in scholarly works as Tughlak Shah. He was of Turko-Indian origins; his father was a Turkic slave and his mother was a Hindu.[7] Ghiyath al-Din ruled for five years and built a town near Delhi named Tughlaqabad.[citation needed] According to some historians such as Vincent Smith,[49] he was killed by his son Juna Khan, who then assumed power in 1325. Juna Khan rechristened himself as Muhammad bin Tughlaq and ruled for 26 years.[50] During his rule, Delhi Sultanate reached its peak in terms of geographical reach, covering most of the Indian subcontinent.[11]

Muhammad bin Tughlaq was an intellectual, with extensive knowledge of the Quran, Fiqh, poetry and other fields. He was also deeply suspicious of his kinsmen and wazirs (ministers), extremely severe with his opponents, and took decisions that caused economic upheaval. For example, he ordered minting of coins from base metals with face value of silver coins - a decision that failed because ordinary people minted counterfeit coins from base metal they had in their houses and used them to pay taxes and jizya.[11][49]

Muhammad bin Tughlaq moved his capital to the Deccan Plateau, ordered Delhi's people to move and build a new capital named Daulatabad (shown), then reversed his decision because Daulatabad lacked the river and drinking water supply Delhi had.[49]
A base metal coin of Muhammad bin Tughlaq that led to an economic collapse.

On another occasion, after becoming upset by some accounts, or to run the Sultanate from the center of India by other accounts, Muhammad bin Tughlaq ordered the transfer of his capital from Delhi to Devagiri in modern-day Maharashtra (renaming it to Daulatabad), by forcing the mass migration of Delhi's population. Those who refused were killed. One blind person who failed to move to Daulatabad was dragged for the entire journey of 40 days - the man died, his body fell apart, and only his tied leg reached Daulatabad.[49] The capital move failed because Daulatabad was arid and did not have enough drinking water to support the new capital. The capital then returned to Delhi. Nevertheless, Muhammad bin Tughlaq's orders affected history as a large number of Delhi Muslims who came to the Deccan area did not return to Delhi to live near Muhammad bin Tughlaq. This influx of the then-Delhi residents into the Deccan region led to a growth of Muslim population in central and southern India.[11] Muhammad bin Tughlaq's adventures in the Deccan region also marked campaigns of destruction and desecration of Hindu and Jain temples, for example the Swayambhu Shiva Temple and the Thousand Pillar Temple.[51]

Revolts against Muhammad bin Tughlaq began in 1327, continued over his reign, and over time the geographical reach of the Sultanate shrunk. The Vijayanagara Empire originated in southern India as a direct response to attacks from the Delhi Sultanate.,[52] and liberated south India from the Delhi Sultanate's rule.[53] In 1337, Muhammad bin Tughlaq ordered an attack on China,[citation needed] sending part of his forces over the Himalayas. Few survived the journey, and they were executed upon their return for failing.[49] During his reign, state revenues collapsed from his policies such as the base metal coins from 1329-1332. To cover state expenses, he sharply raised taxes. Those who failed to pay taxes were hunted and executed. Famines, widespread poverty, and rebellion grew across the kingdom. In 1338 his own nephew rebelled in Malwa, whom he attacked, caught, and flayed alive.[citation needed] By 1339, the eastern regions under local Muslim governors and southern parts led by Hindu kings had revolted and declared independence from the Delhi Sultanate. Muhammad bin Tughlaq did not have the resources or support to respond to the shrinking kingdom.[54] The historian Walford chronicled Delhi and most of India faced severe famines during Muhammad bin Tughlaq's rule in the years after the base metal coin experiment.[55][56] By 1347, the Bahmani Sultanate had become an independent and competing Muslim kingdom in Deccan region of South Asia.[22]

The Tughlaq dynasty is remembered for its architectural patronage, particularly for ancient lats (pillars, left image),[57] dated to be from the 3rd century BC, and of Buddhist and Hindu origins. The Sultanate initially wanted to use the pillars to make mosque minarets. Firuz Shah Tughlaq decided otherwise and had them installed near mosques. The meaning of Brahmi script on the pillar at right was unknown in Firuz Shah's time.[58] The inscription was deciphered by James Prinsep in 1837; the pillar script of Emperor Ashoka asked people of his and future generations to seek a dharmic (virtuous) life, use persuasion in religion, grant freedom from religious persecution, stop all killing, and be compassionate to all living beings.[59]

Muhammad bin Tughlaq died in 1351 while trying to chase and punish people in Gujarat who were rebelling against the Delhi Sultanate.[54] He was succeeded by Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), who tried to regain the old kingdom boundary by waging a war with Bengal for 11 months in 1359. However, Bengal did not fall. Firuz Shah ruled for 37 years. His reign attempted to stabilize the food supply and reduce famines by commissioning an irrigation canal from the Yamuna river. An educated sultan, Firuz Shah left a memoir.[60] In it he wrote that he banned the practice of torture, such as amputations, tearing out of eyes, sawing people alive, crushing people's bones as punishment, pouring molten lead into throats, setting people on fire, driving nails into hands and feet, among others.[61] He also wrote that he did not tolerate attempts by Rafawiz Shia Muslim and Mahdi sects from proselytizing people into their faith, nor did he tolerate Hindus who tried to rebuild temples that his armies had destroyed.[62] As punishment for proselytizing, Firuz Shah put many Shias, Mahdi, and Hindus to death (siyasat). Firuz Shah Tughlaq also lists his accomplishments to include converting Hindus to Sunni Islam by announcing an exemption from taxes and jizya for those who convert, and by lavishing new converts with presents and honours. Simultaneously, he raised taxes and jizya, assessing it at three levels, and stopping the practice of his predecessors who had historically exempted all Hindu Brahmins from the jizya.[61][63] He also vastly expanded the number of slaves in his service and those of Muslim nobles. The reign of Firuz Shah Tughlaq was marked by reduction in extreme forms of torture, eliminating favours to select parts of society, but also increased intolerance and persecution of targeted groups.[61]

The death of Firuz Shah Tughlaq created anarchy and disintegration of the kingdom. The last rulers of this dynasty both called themselves Sultan from 1394 to 1397: Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, the grandson of Firuz Shah Tughlaq who ruled from Delhi, and Nasir ud-Din Nusrat Shah Tughlaq, another relative of Firuz Shah Tughlaq who ruled from Firozabad, which was a few miles from Delhi.[64] The battle between the two relatives continued till Timur's invasion in 1398. Timur, also known as Tamerlane in Western scholarly literature, was the Turkic ruler of the Timurid Empire. He became aware of the weakness and quarreling of the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate, so he marched with his army to Delhi, plundering and killing all the way.[65][66] Estimates for the massacre by Timur in Dehli range from 100,000 to 200,000 people.[67][68] Timur had no intention of staying in or ruling India. He looted the lands he crossed, then plundered and burnt Delhi. Over five days, Timur and his army raged a massacre.[citation needed] Then he collected and carried the wealth, captured women and slaves (particularly skilled artisans), and returned to Samarkand. The people and lands within the Delhi Sultanate were left in a state of anarchy, chaos, and pestilence.[64] Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq, who had fled to Gujarat during Timur's invasion, returned and nominally ruled as the last ruler of Tughlaq dynasty, as a puppet of various factions at the court.[69][citation needed]


The Sayyid dynasty was a Turkic dynasty[70] that ruled the Delhi Sultanate from 1415 to 1451.[22] The Timurid invasion and plunder had left the Delhi Sultanate in shambles, and little is known about the rule by the Sayyid dynasty. Annemarie Schimmel notes the first ruler of the dynasty as Khizr Khan, who assumed power by claiming to represent Timur. His authority was questioned even by those near Delhi. His successor was Mubarak Khan, who rechristened himself as Mubarak Shah and tried to regain lost territories in Punjab, unsuccessfully.[69]

With the power of the Sayyid dynasty faltering, Islam's history on the Indian subcontinent underwent a profound change, according to Schimmel.[69] The previously dominant Sunni sect of Islam became diluted, alternate Muslim sects such as Shia rose, and new competing centers of Islamic culture took roots beyond Delhi.

The Sayyid dynasty was displaced by the Lodi dynasty in 1451.


Delhi Sultanate during Babur's invasion.

The Lodi dynasty had its origins in the Afghan Lodi tribe.[70] Bahlul Khan Lodi started the Lodi dynasty and was the first Pashtun (Pathan), to rule the Delhi Sultanate.[71] Bahlul Lodi began his reign by attacking the Muslim Jaunpur Sultanate to expand the influence of the Delhi Sultanate, and was partially successful through a treaty. Thereafter, the region from Delhi to Varanasi (then at the border of Bengal province), was back under influence of Delhi Sultanate.

After Bahlul Lodi died, his son Nizam Khan assumed power, rechristened himself as Sikandar Lodi and ruled from 1489 to 1517.[72] One of the better known rulers of the dynasty, Sikandar Lodi expelled his brother Barbak Shah from Jaunpur, installed his son Jalal Khan as the ruler, then proceeded east to make claims on Bihar. The Muslim governors of Bihar agreed to pay tribute and taxes, but operated independent of the Delhi Sultanate. Sikandar Lodi led a campaign of destruction of temples, particularly around Mathura. He also moved his capital and court from Delhi to Agra,[73][citation needed] an ancient Hindu city that had been destroyed during the plunder and attacks of the early Delhi Sultanate period. Sikandar thus erected buildings with Indo-Islamic architecture in Agra during his rule, and the growth of Agra continued during the Mughal Empire, after the end of Delhi Sultanate.[71][74]

Sikandar Lodi died a natural death in 1517, and his second son Ibrahim Lodi assumed power. Ibrahim did not enjoy the support of Afghan and Persian nobles or regional chiefs.[75] Ibrahim attacked and killed his elder brother Jalal Khan, who was installed as the governor of Jaunpur by his father and had the support of the amirs and chiefs.[71] Ibrahim Lodi was unable to consolidate his power, and after Jalal Khan's death, the governor of Punjab, Daulat Khan Lodi, reached out to the Mughal Babur and invited him to attack Delhi Sultanate.[73] Babur defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. The death of Ibrahim Lodi ended the Delhi Sultanate, and the Mughal Empire replaced it.


Before and during the Delhi Sultanate, Islamic civilization was the most cosmopolitan civilization of the Middle Ages. It had a multicultural and pluralistic society, and wide-ranging international networks, including social and economic networks, spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, leading to escalating circulation of goods, peoples, technologies and ideas. While initially disruptive due to the passing of power from native Indian elites to Turkic Muslim elites, the Delhi Sultanate was responsible for integrating the Indian subcontinent into a growing world system, drawing India into a wider international network, which led to cultural and social enrichment in the Indian subcontinent.[14]

During the Middle Kingdoms era from 1 CE to 1000 CE, the Indian economy was stagnant with no GDP growth for a thousand years, remaining static at $33.75 billion. During the Medieval Delhi Sultanate era, between 1000 and 1500, India began to experience GDP growth for the first time in a thousand years, increasing by nearly 80% up to $60.5 billion in 1500.[17] In terms of GDP per capita, India's per-capita income was lower than the Middle East from 1 CE (16% lower) to 1000 CE (about 40% lower), but by the late Delhi Sultanate era in 1500, India's GDP per capita had increased to being almost on-par with the Middle East.[76]

The worm gear roller cotton gin was invented in the Indian subcontinent during the early Delhi Sultanate era of the 13th–14th centuries,[77] and is still used in India through to the present day.[78] Another innovation, the incorporation of the crank handle in the cotton gin, first appeared in the Indian subcontinent some time during the late Delhi Sultanate or the early Mughal Empire.[79] The production of cotton, which may have largely been spun in the villages and then taken to towns in the form of yarn to be woven into cloth textiles, was advanced by the diffusion of the spinning wheel across India during the Delhi Sultanate era, lowering the costs of yarn and helping to increase demand for cotton. The diffusion of the spinning wheel, and the incorporation of the worm gear and crank handle into the roller cotton gin, led to greatly expanded Indian cotton textile production.[80]


The Indian population had largely been stagnant at 75 million during the Middle Kingdoms era from 1 AD to 1000 AD. During the Medieval Delhi Sultanate era from 1000 to 1500, India experienced lasting population growth for the first time in a thousand years, with its population increasing nearly 50% to 110 million by 1500 AD.[81][82]


While the Indian subcontinent has had invaders from Central Asia since ancient times, what made the Muslim invasions different is that unlike the preceding invaders who assimilated into the prevalent social system, the successful Muslim conquerors retained their Islamic identity and created new legal and administrative systems that challenged and usually in many cases superseded the existing systems of social conduct and ethics, even influencing the non-Muslim rivals and common masses to a large extent, though the non-Muslim population was left to their own laws and customs.[83][84] They also introduced new cultural codes that in some ways were very different from the existing cultural codes. This led to the rise of a new Indian culture which was mixed in nature, different from ancient Indian culture. The overwhelming majority of Muslims in India were Indian natives converted to Islam. This factor also played an important role in the synthesis of cultures.[85]

The Hindustani language (Hindi-Urdu) began to emerge in the Delhi Sultanate period, developed from the Middle Indo-Aryan apabhramsha vernaculars of North India. Amir Khusro, who lived in the 13th century CE during the Delhi Sultanate period in North India, used a form of Hindustani, which was the lingua franca of the period, in his writings and referred to it as Hindavi.[18]


The bulk of Delhi Sultanate's army consisted of nomadic Turkic Mamluk military slaves, who were skilled in nomadic cavalry warfare. A major military contribution of the Delhi Sultanate was their successful campaigns in repelling the Mongol Empire's invasions of India, which could have been devastating for the Indian subcontinent, like the Mongol invasions of China, Persia and Europe. The Delhi Sultanate's Mamluk army were skilled in the same style of nomadic cavalry warfare used by the Mongols, making them successful in repelling the Mongol invasions, as was the case for the Mamluk Sultanate of Egypt. Were it not for the Delhi Sultanate, it is possible that the Mongol Empire may have been successful in invading India.[19]

Temple desecrationEdit

The Somnath Temple in Gujarat was repeatedly destroyed by Islamic armies and rebuilt by Hindus. It was destroyed by Delhi Sultanate's army in 1299 AD.[86]

During the Delhi Sultanate, there were a total of 37 instances of Hindu temples being desecrated or destroyed in India.[87][88][89] Richard Eaton has tabulated a campaign of destruction of idols and temples by Sultans, intermixed with instances of years where the temples were protected from desecration.[20][90][91] He listed a total of 37 instances of temple desecration in India during the Delhi Sultanate, from 1234 to 1518, but noted there were also many instances of Delhi sultans, who often had Hindu ministers, ordering the protection, maintenance and repairing of temples, according to both Muslim and Hindu sources. For example, a Sanskrit inscription notes that Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq repaired a Siva temple in Bidar after his Deccan conquest. There was often a pattern of Delhi sultans plundering or damaging temples during conquest, and then patronizing or repairing temples after conquest. This pattern came to an end with the Mughal Empire, where Akbar the Great's chief minister Abu'l-Fazl criticized the excesses of earlier sultans such as Mahmud of Ghazni.[92]

In many cases, the demolished remains, rocks and broken statue pieces of temples destroyed by Delhi sultans were reused to build mosques and other buildings. For example, the Qutb complex in Delhi was built from stones of 27 demolished Hindu and Jain temples by some accounts.[93] Similarly, the Muslim mosque in Khanapur, Maharashtra was built from the looted parts and demolished remains of Hindu temples.[41] Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed Buddhist and Hindu libraries and their manuscripts at Nalanda and Odantapuri Universities in 1193 AD at the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate.[51][94]

The first historical record of a campaign of destruction of temples and defacement of faces or heads of Hindu idols lasted from 1193 through the early 13th century in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh under the command of Ghuri. Under the Khiljis, the campaign of temple desecration expanded to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and continued through the late 13th century.[20] The campaign extended to Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu under Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan in the 14th century, and by the Bahmanis in 15th century.[51] Orissa temples were destroyed in the 14th century under the Tughlaqs.

Beyond destruction and desecration, the sultans of the Delhi Sultanate in some cases had forbidden reconstruction of damaged Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, and they prohibited repairs of old temples or construction of any new temples.[95][96] In certain cases, the Sultanate would grant a permit for repairs and construction of temples if the patron or religious community paid jizya (fee, tax). For example, a proposal by the Chinese to repair Himalayan Buddhist temples destroyed by the Sultanate army was refused, on the grounds that such temple repairs were only allowed if the Chinese agreed to pay jizya tax to the treasury of the Sultanate.[97][98] In his memoirs, Firoz Shah Tughlaq describes how he destroyed temples and built mosques instead and killed those who dared build new temples.[99] Other historical records from wazirs, amirs and the court historians of various Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate describe the grandeur of idols and temples they witnessed in their campaigns and how these were destroyed and desecrated.[100]

Temple desecration during Delhi Sultanate period[20][101]
Sultan / Agent Dynasty Years Temple Sites Destroyed States
Muhammad Ghori, Qutb al-Din Aibak Mamluk 1193-1290 Ajmer, Samana, Kuhram, Delhi, Kol, Varanasi Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh
Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, Shams ud-Din Iltumish, Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khilji, Ala ud-Din Khilji, Malik Kafur Mamluk and Khilji 1290-1320 Nalanda, Odantapuri, Vikramashila, Bhilsa, Ujjain, Jhain, Vijapur, Devagiri, Somnath, Chidambaram, Madurai Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu
Ulugh Khan, Firuz Shah Tughlaq, Nahar, Muzaffar Khan Khilji and Tughlaq 1320-1395[102] Somnath, Warangal, Bodhan, Pillalamarri, Puri, Sainthali, Idar, Somnath[103] Gujarat, Telangana, Orissa, Haryana
Sikandar, Muzaffar Shah, Ahmad Shah, Mahmud Sayyid 1400-1442 Paraspur, Bijbehara, Tripuresvara, Idar, Diu, Manvi, Sidhpur, Delwara, Kumbhalmir Gujarat, Rajasthan
Suhrab, Begdha, Bahmani, Khalil Shah, Khawwas Khan, Sikandar Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi Lodi 1457-1518 Mandalgarh, Malan, Dwarka, Kondapalle, Kanchi, Amod, Nagarkot, Utgir, Narwar, Gwalior Rajasthan, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh

List of SultansEdit

Mamluk dynastyEdit

The mausoleum of Qutb al-Din Aibak in Anarkali, Lahore, Pakistan.

Khilji dynastyEdit

Tughlaq dynastyEdit

Sayyid dynastyEdit

Lodi dynastyEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Arabic and Persian Epigraphical Studies - Archaeological Survey of India". 
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  3. ^ Jackson, Peter (16 October 2003). The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press. p. 28. ISBN 978-0-521-54329-3. 
  4. ^ Delhi Sultanate, Encyclopædia Britannica
  5. ^ A. Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, Leiden, 1980
  6. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 68–102. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4. 
  7. ^ a b Jamal Malik (2008). Islam in South Asia: A Short History. Brill Publishers. p. 104. 
  8. ^ Ramananda Chatterjee (1961). The Modern Review. 109. Indiana University. p. 84. 
  9. ^ Pradeep Barua The State at War in South Asia, ISBN 978-0803213449, p. 29-30
  10. ^ Bowering et al., The Princeton Encyclopedia of Islamic Political Thought, ISBN 978-0691134840, Princeton University Press
  11. ^ a b c d Muḥammad ibn Tughluq Encyclopædia Britannica
  12. ^ Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15482-0, pp 187-190
  13. ^ Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, Oxford University Press
  14. ^ a b Asher, C. B.; Talbot, C (1 January 2008), India Before Europe (1st ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 50–52, ISBN 978-0-521-51750-8 
  15. ^ A. Welch, "Architectural Patronage and the Past: The Tughluq Sultans of India," Muqarnas 10, 1993, Brill Publishers, pp 311-322
  16. ^ J. A. Page, Guide to the Qutb, Delhi, Calcutta, 1927, page 2-7
  17. ^ a b Madison, Angus (6 December 2007). Contours of the world economy, 1–2030 AD: essays in macro-economic history. Oxford University Press. p. 379. ISBN 0-19-922720-9. 
  18. ^ a b Keith Brown; Sarah Ogilvie (2008), Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World, Elsevier, ISBN 0-08-087774-5, ... Apabhramsha seemed to be in a state of transition from Middle Indo-Aryan to the New Indo-Aryan stage. Some elements of Hindustani appear ... the distinct form of the lingua franca Hindustani appears in the writings of Amir Khusro (1253–1325), who called it Hindwi ... 
  19. ^ a b c Asher, C. B.; Talbot, C (1 January 2008), India Before Europe (1st ed.), Cambridge University Press, pp. 19, 50–51, ISBN 978-0-521-51750-8 
  20. ^ a b c d Richard Eaton (2000), Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States, Journal of Islamic Studies, 11(3), pp 283-319
  21. ^ Richard M. Frye, "Pre-Islamic and Early Islamic Cultures in Central Asia", in Turko-Persia in Historical Perspective, ed. Robert L. Canfield (Cambridge U. Press c. 1991), 35–53.
  22. ^ a b c See:
    • M. Reza Pirbha, Reconsidering Islam in a South Asian Context, ISBN 978-9004177581, Brill
    • The Islamic frontier in the east: Expansion into South Asia, Journal of South Asian Studies, 4(1), pp. 91-109
    • Sookoohy M., Bhadreswar - Oldest Islamic Monuments in India, ISBN 978-9004083417, Brill Academic; see discussion of earliest raids in Gujarat
  23. ^ Asher, C. B.; Talbot, C (1 January 2008), India Before Europe (1st ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 19, ISBN 978-0-521-51750-8 
  24. ^ a b c d Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521543293, pp 3-30
  25. ^ T. A. Heathcote, The Military in British India: The Development of British Forces in South Asia:1600-1947, (Manchester University Press, 1995), pp 5-7
  26. ^ Barnett, Lionel (1999), Antiquities of India: An Account of the History and Culture of Ancient Hindustan, p. 1, at Google Books, Atlantic pp. 73–79
  27. ^ Richard Davis (1994), Three styles in looting India, History and Anthropology, 6(4), pp 293-317, doi:10.1080/02757206.1994.9960832
  28. ^ MUHAMMAD B. SAM Mu'izz AL-DIN, T.W. Haig, Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. VII, ed. C.E.Bosworth, E.van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs and C. Pellat, (Brill, 1993)
  29. ^ C.E. Bosworth, The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 5, ed. J. A. Boyle, John Andrew Boyle, (Cambridge University Press, 1968), pp 161-170
  30. ^ History of South Asia: A Chronological Outline Columbia University (2010)
  31. ^ Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Sām Encyclopædia Britannica (2011)
  32. ^ Bruce R. Gordon. "Nomads of the Steppe". Retrieved 2012-01-20. 
  33. ^ Jackson P. (1990), The Mamlūk institution in early Muslim India, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (New Series), 122(02), pp 340-358
  34. ^ C.E. Bosworth, The New Islamic Dynasties, Columbia University Press (1996)
  35. ^ Barnett & Haig (1926), A review of History of Mediaeval India, from ad 647 to the Mughal Conquest - Ishwari Prasad, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain & Ireland (New Series), 58(04), pp 780-783
  36. ^ a b Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521543293, pp 29-48
  37. ^ a b Anzalone, Christopher (2008), "Delhi Sultanate", in Ackermann, M. E. etc. (Editors), Encyclopedia of World History 2, ISBN 978-0-8160-6386-4
  38. ^ "Qutub Minar". Retrieved 5 August 2015. 
  39. ^ a b c Qutb Minar and its Monuments, Delhi UNESCO
  40. ^ Welch and Crane note that the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque was built with the remains of demolished Hindu and Jain temples; See: Welch, Anthony; Crane, Howard (1983). "The Tughluqs: Master Builders of the Delhi Sultanate" (PDF). Muqarnas. Brill. 1: 123–166. JSTOR 1523075. 
  41. ^ a b c Welch, Anthony; Crane, Howard (1983). "The Tughluqs: Master Builders of the Delhi Sultanate" (PDF). Muqarnas. Brill. 1: 123–166. JSTOR 1523075. 
  42. ^ a b c d Holt et al., The Cambridge History of Islam - The Indian sub-continent, south-east Asia, Africa and the Muslim west, ISBN 978-0521291378, pp 9-13
  43. ^ Alexander Mikaberidze, Conflict and Conquest in the Islamic World: A Historical Encyclopedia, ISBN 978-1598843361, pp 62-63
  44. ^ Rene Grousset - Empire of steppes, Chagatai Khanate; Rutgers Univ Press, New Jersey, U.S.A, 1988 ISBN 0-8135-1304-9
  45. ^ Frank Fanselow (1989), Muslim society in Tamil Nadu (India): an historical perspective, Journal Institute of Muslim Minority Affairs, 10(1), pp 264-289
  46. ^ Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, 3rd Edition, Routledge, 1998, ISBN 0-415-15482-0
  47. ^ AL Srivastava, Delhi Sultanate 5th Edition, ASIN B007Q862WO, pp 156-158
  48. ^ a b Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 231-235, Oxford University Press
  49. ^ a b c d e Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 236-242, Oxford University Press
  50. ^ Elliot and Dowson, Táríkh-i Fíroz Sháhí of Ziauddin Barani, The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period (Vol 3), London, Trübner & Co
  51. ^ a b c Richard Eaton, Temple Desecration and Muslim States in Medieval India at Google Books, (2004)
  52. ^ Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund, A History of India, (Routledge, 1986), 188.
  53. ^ Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India by Jl Mehta p.97
  54. ^ a b Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 242-248, Oxford University Press
  55. ^ Cornelius Walford (1878), The Famines of the World: Past and Present, p. 3, at Google Books, pp 9-10
  56. ^ Judith Walsh, A Brief History of India, ISBN 978-0816083626, pp 70-72; Quote: "In 1335-42, during a severe famine and death in the Delhi region, the Sultanate offered no help to the starving residents."
  57. ^ McKibben, William Jeffrey (1994). "The Monumental Pillars of Fīrūz Shāh Tughluq". Ars Orientalis. 24: 105–118. JSTOR 4629462. 
  58. ^ HM Elliot & John Dawson (1871), Tarikh I Firozi Shahi - Records of Court Historian Sams-i-Siraj The History of India as told by its own historians, Volume 3, Cornell University Archives, pp 352-353
  59. ^ Prinsep, J (1837). "Interpretation of the most ancient of inscriptions on the pillar called lat of Feroz Shah, near Delhi, and of the Allahabad, Radhia and Mattiah pillar, or lat inscriptions which agree therewith". Journal of the Asiatic Society. 6 (2): 600–609. 
  60. ^ Firoz Shah Tughlak, Futuhat-i Firoz Shahi - Memoirs of Firoz Shah Tughlak, Translated in 1871 by Elliot and Dawson, Volume 3 - The History of India, Cornell University Archives
  61. ^ a b c Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 249-251, Oxford University Press
  62. ^ Firoz Shah Tughlak, Futuhat-i Firoz Shahi - Autobiographical memoirs, Translated in 1871 by Elliot and Dawson, Volume 3 - The History of India, Cornell University Archives, pp 377-381
  63. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, ISBN 978-9004061170, Brill Academic, pp 20-23
  64. ^ a b Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 248-254, Oxford University Press
  65. ^ Peter Jackson (1999), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, pp 312–317
  66. ^ Beatrice F. Manz (2000). "Tīmūr Lang". In P. J. Bearman; Th. Bianquis; C. E. Bosworth; E. van Donzel; W. P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam. 10 (2 ed.). Brill. 
  67. ^ Lionel Trotter (1906), History of India: From the Earliest Times to the Present Day, Gorham Publishers London/New York, pp 74
  68. ^ Annemarie Schimmel (1997), Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, Brill Academic, ISBN 978-9004061170, pp 36-37; Also see: Elliot, Studies in Indian History, 2nd Edition, pp 98-101
  69. ^ a b c Annemarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, ISBN 978-9004061170, Brill Academic, Chapter 2
  70. ^ a b Judith Walsh, A Brief History of India, ISBN 978-0816083626
  71. ^ a b c Vincent A Smith, The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911, p. 217, at Google Books, Chapter 2, pp 253-257, Oxford University Press
  72. ^ Digby, S. (1975), The Tomb of Buhlūl Lōdī, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 38(03), pp 550-561
  73. ^ a b Lodi Dynasty Encyclopædia Britannica (2009)
  74. ^ Andrew Petersen, Dictionary of Islamic Architecture, Routledge, ISBN 978-0415060844, pp 7
  75. ^ Richards, John (1965), The Economic History of the Lodi Period: 1451-1526, Journal de l'histoire economique et sociale de l'Orient, Vol. 8, No. 1, pp 47-67
  76. ^ Angus Maddison (2010). "Statistics on World Population, GDP and Per Capita GDP, 1-2008 AD". University of Groningen. 
  77. ^ Irfan Habib (2011), Economic History of Medieval India, 1200-1500, page 53, Pearson Education
  78. ^ Lakwete, Angela (2003). Inventing the Cotton Gin: Machine and Myth in Antebellum America. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 1–6. ISBN 9780801873942. 
  79. ^ Irfan Habib (2011), Economic History of Medieval India, 1200-1500, pages 53-54, Pearson Education
  80. ^ Irfan Habib (2011), Economic History of Medieval India, 1200-1500, page 54, Pearson Education
  81. ^ Angus Maddison (2001), The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, pages 241-242, OECD Development Centre
  82. ^ Angus Maddison (2001), The World Economy: A Millennial Perspective, page 236, OECD Development Centre
  83. ^ Asher, C. B.; Talbot, C (1 January 2008), India Before Europe (1st ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 47, ISBN 978-0-521-51750-8 
  84. ^ Metcalf, B.; Metcalf, T. R. (9 October 2006), A Concise History of Modern India (2nd ed.), Cambridge University Press, p. 6, ISBN 978-0-521-68225-1 
  85. ^ Eaton, Richard M.'The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. Berkeley: University of California Press, c1993 1993, accessed on 1 May 2007
  86. ^ Eaton (2000), Temple desecration in pre-modern India Frontline, p. 73, item 16 of the Table, Archived by Columbia University
  87. ^ Eaton, Richard M. (2000). "Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States" (PDF). The Hindu. Chennai, India. p. 297. 
  88. ^ Annemarie Schimmel, Islam in the Indian Subcontinent, ISBN 978-9004061170, Brill Academic, pp 7-10
  89. ^ James Brown (1949), The History of Islam in India, The Muslim World, 39(1), 11-25
  90. ^ Richard M. Eaton, Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States, Part II, Frontline, January 5, 2001, 70-77.[1]
  91. ^ Richard M. Eaton, Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States, Part I, Frontline, December 22, 2000, 62-70.[2]
  92. ^ Eaton, Richard M. (2000). "Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States" (PDF). The Hindu. Chennai, India. p. 297. 
  93. ^ Welch, Anthony (1993), Architectural patronage and the past: The Tughluq sultans of India, Muqarnas, Vol. 10, 311-322
  94. ^ Gul and Khan (2008), Growth and Development of Oriental Libraries in India, Library Philosophy and Practice, University of Nebrasaka-Lincoln
  95. ^ Eva De Clercq (2010), ON JAINA APABHRAṂŚA PRAŚASTIS, Acta Orientalia Academiae Scientiarum Hung. Volume 63 (3), pp 275–287
  96. ^ R Islam (1997), A Note on the Position of the non-Muslim Subjects in the Sultanate of Delhi under the Khaljis and the Tughluqs, Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, 45, pp. 215–229; R Islam (2002), Theory and Practice of Jizyah in the Delhi Sultanate (14th Century), Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, 50, pp. 7–18
  97. ^ A.L. Srivastava (1966), Delhi Sultanate, 5th Edition, Agra College
  98. ^ Peter Jackson (2003), The Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0521543293, pp 287-295
  99. ^ Firoz Shah Tughlak, Futuhat-i Firoz Shahi - Memoirs of Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Translated in 1871 by Elliot and Dawson, Volume 3 - The History of India, Cornell University Archives, pp 377-381
  100. ^ Hasan Nizami et al, Taju-l Ma-asir & Appendix, Translated in 1871 by Elliot and Dawson, Volume 2 - The History of India, Cornell University Archives, pp 22, 219, 398, 471
  101. ^ Richard Eaton, Temple desecration and Indo-Muslim states, Frontline (January 5, 2001), pp 72-73
  102. ^ Ulugh Khan also known as Almas Beg was brother of Ala-al Din Khilji; his destruction campaign overlapped the two dynasties
  103. ^ Somnath temple went through cycles of destruction by Sultans and rebuilding by Hindus
  104. ^ Tughlaq Shahi Kings of Delhi: Chart The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 369..


External linksEdit