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Shams ud-Din Iltutmish (Persian: شَمْسُ ٱلْدِّين إِلْتُتْمِش) (r. 1211–1236) was the third ruler of the Mamluk dynasty of Delhi of Turkic origin. He was a slave of Qutb-ud-din Aibak and later became his son-in-law and close lieutenant. He was the Governor of Badaun when he deposed Qutub-ud-din's successor Aram Shah and acceded to the throne of the Delhi Sultanate in 1211. He shifted the capital from Lahore to Delhi, remained the ruler until his death on May 1, 1236.

Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish
Sultan of Delhi
Governor of Badayun
Nasir Amir-ul-mominin
Entrance to Illtumish Tomb in Qutub Minar Complex.jpg
Entrance to Illtumish Tomb in Qutub Minar Complex
3rd Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate
ReignJune 1211 – 28 April 1236
PredecessorAram Shah
SuccessorRukn ud din Firuz
Died11 April 1236
  • Qutub Begum - Daughter of Qutb-ud-din Aibak. Iltutmish’s Chief Wife.
  • Shah Turkan Begum - A courtesan from Lahore.
  • Nadira Banu Begum - The sister of Delhi’s Chief Qazi.
  • Ghazni Bai Begum Sahiba - Daughter of Sultan Yildiz of Ghazni.
  • Lutfunessa Khatun - Originally a Hindu princess from Devgiri. Was captured & raped by Iltutmish.
  • Fatima Sultan Begum - Of Gujarati extraction.
IssueNasiruddin Mahmud
Razia Sultana
Muiz ud din Bahram
Rukn ud din Firuz

Iltutmish consolidated the position of the sultanate in the Indian subcontinent. He conquered Multan and Bengal from contesting rulers and Ranthambore and Siwalik from their rulers. He expanded his domain by defeating the Muslim rulers of Ghazni, Multan and Bengal, which had previously annexed some of his territories and threatened his domain. He conquered the latter two territories and made further conquests in the Hindu lands, conquering Ranthambore Fort, Gwalior and the fort of Mandur.

Iltutmish organized the administration of the Sultanate, laying the foundation for its dominance over northern India until the Mughal invasion. He introduced the silver tanka and the copper jital - the two basic coins of the Sultanate period, with a standard weight of 175 grains. He set up the Iqtadari system: division of empire into Iqtas, which were assigned to the nobles and officers in lieu of salary. He erected many buildings, including mosques, khanqahs (monasteries), dargahs (shrines or graves of influential people) and a hawz (Persianized from the Arabic: hawdh حوض - "reservoir") for pilgrims.


Early life and careerEdit

Shams-ud-din belonged to the tribe of Ilbari in Turkestan. He was sold into slavery at an early age. He was purchased by Qutub-ud-din-Aybak, then the Viceroy of Delhi. He rose quickly in Aybak's service, married his daughter, and served in succession as the Governor of Gwalior and Baran. In recognition of his services during the campaign of Muhammad of Ghur against the Khokhars in 1205-06, he was, by the Sultan's order, manumitted.[1] Iltutmish was appointed Governor of Badaun in 1206 and was serving in this post when Aybak died in a polo accident and a group of noblemen invited Iltutmish to stake his claim on the Indian dominions of the Ghurids.[2]

Sultan of DelhiEdit

Early challengesEdit

On his accession, Iltutmish faced a number of challenges to his rule. After Aibak's death, the Ghurid dominions in India had divided into four. Iltutmish had controlled Delhi. Nasir ad-Din Qabacha, the Governor of Uch and Multan, asserted his independence.[3] Ali Mardan Khilji, who had been appointed Governor of Lakhnauti in Bengal by Aibak in 1206, had thrown off his allegiance to Delhi after Aibak's death and styled himself Sultan Ala ud-Din of Bengal. Lahore was contested by Iltutmish, Qabacha and Taj al-Din Yildiz, who asserted his rights as the successor to Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori in Ghazni. Yildiz attempted to bring Delhi under his control. Initially, Iltutmish acknowledged Yildiz's suzerainty by accepting the symbolic presents of the chatr and durbash.[4] The Hindu princes and chiefs were discontented at their loss of independence and had recovered Kannauj, Benaras, Gwalior, and Kalinjar, all of which had been lost during Qutb al-Din's reign.[5] Ranthambore had been reconquered by the Chauhans during Aram Shah's rule. To add to Iltutmish's troubles, some of the Turkic nobles in Delhi expressed resentment against his rule.[6]

A view of the Fort of Kalinjar from 1814. Evidently a strong fort, it took some efforts on the behalf of the Muslim army to conquer.

The first order of business was to bring under control dependencies of Delhi that were under the control of nobles appointed by Mu'izz ad-Din and Hindu chieftains. Iltutmish launched military campaigns to assert his rule over Awadh, Badaun, Benaras and Siwalik.[2] Iltutmish's son Nasir ud-Din Mahmud captured the Gangetic valley territories of Badaun, Kannauj and Benaras. Rohilkhand was taken with heavy losses.[5]

In 1215-1216, Taj al-Din Yildiz, a Turkic slave commander of the Ghurids, who had been defeated and expelled from Ghazni by the forces of the Khwarezmid Empire, moved towards Punjab and captured Lahore from Qabacha. Yildiz laid claim to the throne of Delhi as the heir to Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori. Iltutmish refused, stating:

[T]he dominion of the world is enjoyed by the one who possesses the greatest strength. The principle of hereditary succession is not extinct but long ago destiny abolished this custom.[4]

Iltutmish defeated Yildiz at Tarain in January 1216. Yildiz was imprisoned in Badaun and was later executed.[3]

In 1217, after the death of Yildiz, Qabacha had retaken Lahore and in response, Iltutmish led his army towards Lahore. Qabacha attempted to retreat from Lahore towards Multan. Iltutmish refrained from attacking Sindh due to the presence of the Mongols on his north-west frontier. Iltutmish was preoccupied with the Mongol threat and did not threaten Qabacha until year 1227, when he defeated Qabacha at Mansura. At that time, Lahore was under Iltutmish's rule but not for long.[3]

Mongol threatEdit

In 1221, the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan appeared for the first time on the banks of the Indus River. They had overrun central and western Asia with lightning rapidity. The Mongols sacked the Khwarazmid Empire, captured its capital Khiva and forced its ruler, Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu, to flee to the Punjab.

Mingburnu, a staunch opponent of the Mongols, entered into an alliance with the Khokhars and captured Lahore and much of the Punjab. He requested an alliance with Iltutmish against the Mongols. Iltutmish refused, not wishing to get into a conflict with Genghis Khan. He then marched towards Lahore at the head of a large army. Mingburnu retreated from Lahore and moved towards Uch, inflicting a heavy defeat on Qabacha. Mingburnu then plundered Sindh and northern Gujarat before going to Persia in 1224. The Mongols invaded Multan in 1241, but were defeated and left.[7]

Consolidation of powerEdit

Extent of Delhi Sultanate under Iltutmish; The Sultanate clearly expanded under Shams ud-din into Bengal, the outskirts of Tibet and south to the Gangentic plains.

Loath to get into a conflict with the Mongols, Iltutmish turned his attention towards the Hindu east. Iltutmish marched against Ghiyasuddin in 1225 and was successful. Ghiyasuddin accepted Iltutmish's suzerainty, ceded Bihar, and paid a large tribute. However, soon after Iltutmish left, Ghiyasuddin revoked the agreement and retook control of Bihar. Iltutmish's son Nasiruddin Mahmud, Governor of Awadh was tasked with dealing with Bengal. In 1227, when Ghiyasuddin was campaigning in Assam, Mahmud launched a sudden attack, capturing Lakhnauti. Ghiyasuddin was imprisoned and then executed. Mahmud died suddenly in 1229, to the dismay of his father. This led to further revolts by the Khalji Maliks of Bengal until Iltutmish captured Lakhnauti again in 1230.[8] Ala-ud-din Jani was appointed Governor of Lakhnauti.[6]

Iltutmish then turned his attention to Qabacha. Capture of Bengal and Rajput territories had significantly enhanced the state of Iltutmish's treasury whereas Qabacha had been weakened by Mingburnu's sack of Uchch and the Mongol siege of Multan. The upheaval caused by the Mongol invasion had led to a large number of military adventurers and officers from Turkic lands to move to India. Iltutmish's replenished treasury allowed him to recruit a large army. A number of officials also defected from Qabacha's camp.[9] In 1228, Iltutmish attacked Qabacha. Ucch was captured after a siege of three months.[7] Qabacha fled and was surrounded on all sides in the fort of Bhakkar, on the banks of Indus. He drowned while attempting to escape. Sindh and Multan were incorporated into the Delhi Sultanate and placed under separate governors.[10]

In 1228-29, Iltutmish received emissaries from the Abbasid Caliph Al-Mustansir and was presented with the Caliphal robe (khilat) and investiture (manshur) signifying the Caliphate's recognition of Iltutmish's rule over India.[11] Such recognition was highly sought after by the Muslim rulers of India as it lent religious and political legitimacy and prestige.[12] In Iltutmish's case, in particular, this was a symbolic declaration of the Delhi Sultanate's status as an independent kingdom rather than a client of the Ghurids.[13] and earned Iltutmish the title of "Lieutanat" (Naib) or "righthand man" (Yamin) of the Caliph, or Commander of the Faithful (Amir al-Mu'minin).

Due to his problems first with Turkic nobles and then with the Mongols, Iltutmish had also ignored the Rajputs, who had regained territory lost earlier to the Turks, for the first fifteen years of his reign. Starting in 1226, however, Iltutmish began a series of campaigns against the Rajputs. Ranthambore, considered impregnable, was taken in 1226; Mandsaur in 1227. Bayana, Ajmer and Sambhar were also captured. Ranthambore was returned to its Chauhan rulers, who served as feudatories, while Ajmer remained part of the Delhi Sultanate. Nagaur was captured in 1230 and Gwalior was captured in 1231 after a one-year siege.[14][15] Iltutmish's army was forced to retreat with heavy losses from Gujarat by the ruling Chaulukyas.[5] In 1235, Iltutmish sacked Ujjain.[16][17]

Civil administrationEdit

Iltutmish laid down the foundation of the Mamluk dynasty and the Delhi Sultanate as an independent hereditary kingdom, freeing it from a subordinate position to Ghazni. The Delhi Sultanate endured as the preeminent power in northern India until the arrival of the Mughals in 1526. He was an efficient administrator, whose efforts created a stable entity. Amongst his innovations were the importation of the iqtadari system, to reduce the power of hereditary feudal lords, and a new coinage system. Though he was devout Muslim, he overruled those in the Ulema who wanted the state to vigorously pursue the religious conversion of Hindus. He understood the limits to which Islamic Law could be implemented in a largely non-Muslim country. This balance became a feature of Turkic rule in Delhi. He made Delhi the capital of his kingdom and invested in numerous waterworks, mosques and learning institutions. His patronage of scholars and artists made Delhi an important cultural centre. He encouraged the immigration of nobles, scholars, poets, and religious figures from other parts of the Islamic world ravaged by the Mongol invasion to Delhi.[15][18]


Coin of Shams-Ud-Din Iltutmish, circa 1210–35.
Obv: Crude figure of Rider bearing lance on caparisoned horse facing right. Devnagari Legends : Sri /hamirah'. Star above horse. Rev: Arabic Legends : ' shams al-dunya wa'l din iltutmish al-sultan'.
Coin of Shams-Ud-Din Iltutmish, circa 1210–35.
Obv:Rider bearing lance on caparisoned horse facing right. Devnagari Legends: Sri/hamirah'. Rev:Arabic Legends: 'Shams al-dunya wa'l din Abu'l Muzaffar Iltutmish al-Sultan'.

The early Ghurid rulers had maintained the Rajput coinage system based on the Hindushahi bull-and horseman coins in place at the Delhi mint. Dehliwala, the standard coin, was a silver-copper alloy with a uniform weight of 3.38 grams, of which 0.59 grams was Silver. The major source of silver for the Delhi mint were coin hoards from Central Asia. Another source was European silver which made its way to Delhi via the Red Sea, Persian Gulf through the ports of Gujarat. By the 1220s, supply from Central Asia had dried up and Gujarat was under control of hostile forces.[19]

In response to the lack of silver, Iltutmish introduced a new bimetallic coinage system to Northern India consisting of an 11 grams silver Tanka and the billon Jital, with 0.25 grams of silver. The Dehliwala was devalued to be on par with the Jital. This meant that a Dehliwala with 0.59 grams of silver was now equivalent to a coin with 0.25 grams of silver. Each Dehliwala paid as tax, therefore produced an excess 0.34 grams of silver which could be used to produce Tankas. The new system served as the basis for coinage for much of the Sultanate period and even beyond, though periodic shortages of silver caused further debasement. The Tanka is a forerunner to the Rupee.[20][21]

Iqtadar systemEdit

Iltutmish introduced the Iqtadar system (Arabic: ʼiqtadār إِقْتَدَار), which had been the common practice of the majority of the Islamic world since the time of the Buyids. The system shares some similarities with the contemporary European custom of Feudalism, and involved dedicating the profits of a certain land of fief (Quta'/Iqta' in other Islamic lands) to warlords in payment of their martial service and political loyalty. It was basically grant of revenue from a territory instead of a salary.


During his dominion in Badaun, Iltutmish built the city's fort (Kotla) and the Jama Masjid Shamsi (great Friday Mosque) of the city, which remained the biggest and most famous Mosque in Medieval India until the expansion of Delhi's Jama Masjid in Alauddin's time and is still second largest with the largest Mosque Dome.

Shams ud-din built several Khanqas (monasteries) and Dargahs (graves) for Sufi saints, as Sufism was dominant in the Deccan. He commenced the structure of Hamid ud-din's Khanaqa, and built the Gandhak-ki-Baoli, a stepwell for the Sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki, who moved to Delhi during his reign.[22]

Near the Gandhaki Baoli, Shams ud-din also built the Hauz-i-Shamsi, a watertank (a popular means for the welfare of pilgrims), which he erected in 1230 after the Prophet Muhammad was claimed to have appeared in his dream and led him there. Iltutmish claimed to have found the footprint of the Buraq, the prophet's mount, at the site. The site also encompasses the Jahaz Mahal standing on its edge, used by later Mughal Emperors.[23]

The Jahaz Mahal on the bank of the Hauz-i Shamsi

In 1231, following the demise of his oldest son and heir apparent, Nasir ud-Din Mahmud, he built Sultan Ghari the mausoleum for him, which was the first Islamic Mausoleum in Delhi. The tomb lies within fortified grounds, which also include the graves of several others of Iltutmish's kindred.[23]

He is said to have completed the construction of the Qutb Minar, erected by Qutb ud-din, and expanded the Qutb complex and the Quwwat al-Islam Mosque therein.

Islamic cultureEdit

Shams ud-din's court was abundant with poets in the Arabic and Persian languages. He is said to have rewarded a poet called Nasiri for writing him a fifty-three couplets long Qasida, by giving him fifty-three thousands tankas; Iltutmish is also said to have learned the opening (Fatiha) of the Qasida by heart.[24][non-primary source needed] His victories against the Hindu Rajputs of Ranathambhore was celebrated by the poet Ruhani al-Samarqandi to devote these verses to the Sultan:

The faithful Jibra'il (Archangel Gabriel) carried the tidings to the dwellers in heaven,
From the record of victories of the Sulṭán of the age Shams ud-Dín,
Saying — Oh ye holy angels raise upon the heavens,
Hearing this good tidings, the canopy of adornment.
That from the land of the heretics the Sháhansháh of Islám
Has conquered a second time the fort resembling the sky;
The Sháh, holy warrior and Ghází (Muslim soldier/ conqueror), whose hand and sword
The soul of the lion of repeated attacks praises.[25]

The verses compare the Sultan to 'Ali, who is often called "Lion of Allah (God): (Arabic: Asad-Illah أَسَدِ ٱلله) or (Persian: Shīr-i Khuda شيرِ خودا)", and adorns him with the Persian title of Shahenshah (King of Kings) and clearly refer to Ranathambore as "the fort resembling the sky", due to its high position in the mountains. The famous poet, Amir Khusraw, was a poet in the service of his court, as well, and has mentioned the Sultan in verses often.[26][non-primary source needed]


Shams ud-din installed a new nobility, which was based on a confederation of Turkic and a few Mawali (new Muslims of Hindu origin) that were acquitants of him or of Qutb ud-din. They formed a council of forty (Chilanghan) which was very powerful and became the de facto rulers behind the majority of his heirs.

Death and successionEdit

Illtumish Tomb in Qutub Minar Complex

In 1236 Iltutmish died, and was buried in the Qutb complex in Mehrauli.[27]

The death of Iltutmish was followed by years of political instability at Delhi. During this period, four descendants of Iltutmish were put on the throne and murdered. Iltutmish's eldest son, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, had died in 1229 while governing Bengal as his father's deputy. The surviving sons of the Sultan were incapable of the task of administration. In 1236, Iltutmish, on his death-bed, nominated his daughter Razia as his heiress.[28] But, Razia did not have support of the nobles of the court, who did not want a woman ruler.

Iltutmish's eldest surviving son, Rukn-ud-din Firuz was raised to the throne. Firuz left governance in the hands of his mother, Shah Turken. Firuz was deposed within six months, and Razia became the ruler. Razia's growing assertiveness brought her in conflict with the nobles. In 1240, a rebellion led to the replacement of Razia by her brother, Muiz ud din Bahram. Bahram ruled for two years before he was overthrown in favour of Firuz's son, Ala ud din Masud in 1242.[29]

Order was re-established only after Iltutmish's grandson Nasir-ud-din-Mahmud became Sultan with Iltutmish's prominent slave, Ghias-ud-din-Balban as his Deputy Sultan (Naib) in 1246. Balban held all the power at the time and became Sultan in 1266.[30] There was internal stability from 1246 until 1290 when Jalal-ud-din Khilji overthrew Balban's great-grandson Kayumarath, thus ending the Mamluk Dynasty and founded the Khilji Dynasty.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Mehta 1986, pp. 90–91
  2. ^ a b Jackson 2003, p. 29
  3. ^ a b c Mehta 1986, pp. 91–92
  4. ^ a b Wink 1997, p. 184
  5. ^ a b c Mehta 1986, p. 94
  6. ^ a b McLeod 2002, p. 35
  7. ^ a b Chandra 2004, p. 40
  8. ^ Chandra 2004, p. 44
  9. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 39–40
  10. ^ Mehta, p. 93
  11. ^ Finbarr Barry Flood (2009). Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter. Princeton University Press. p. 240. ISBN 0691125945.
  12. ^ Blain H. Auer (2012). Symbols of Authority in Medieval Islam: History, Religion and Muslim Legitimacy in the Delhi Sultanate. I.B.Tauris. pp. 107–108. ISBN 9781848855670.
  13. ^ Sean Oliver-Dee (2009). The Caliphate Question: The British Government and Islamic Governance. Lexington Books. p. 31.
  14. ^ Wink 1997, p. 156
  15. ^ a b Chandra 2004, pp. 44–45
  16. ^ Hoiberg, Dale, and Indu Ramchandani, Students' Britannica India, (C&C offset Printing Co. LTD., 2000), 178.
  17. ^ Ring, Trudy and Robert M. Salkin, Paul E Schellinger, Sharon La Boda, International Dictionary of Historic Places: Asia and Oceania, (Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1996), 837.
  18. ^ Farooqui 2011, pp. 59–60
  19. ^ Blanchard 2005, pp. 1263–64
  20. ^ Blanchard 2005, pp. 1264–65
  21. ^ Wink 1997, p. 155
  22. ^ Smith, Ronald Vivian (2005), The Delhi that no-one knows, Orient Blackswan, pp. 11–12, ISBN 81-8028-020-9
  23. ^ a b Y.D.Sharma (2001). "Delhi and its Neighbourhood". Hauzi-i-Shamsi (New Delhi: Archaeological Survey of India). pp. 63–64 &73. Retrieved 2009-04-24.
  24. ^ Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, Riyaz us-Salatin (1778); link: [1] (retrieved: 13 December 2013)
  25. ^ Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri, Riyaz us-Salatin (1778); link: [2] (retrieved: 13 December 2013).
  26. ^ "PHI Persian Literature in Translation".
  27. ^ Ikram 1966, p. 52
  28. ^ Mehta, p. 98
  29. ^ Sen, Sailendra (2013). A Textbook of Medieval Indian History. Primus Books. pp. 74–76. ISBN 978-9-38060-734-4.
  30. ^ Jackson 2003, pp. 46–47


Preceded by
Aram Shah
Sultan of the Mamluk Dynasty
Succeeded by
Rukn ud din Firuz
Preceded by
Aram Shah
Sultan of Delhi
Succeeded by
Rukn ud din Firuz