Madurai Sultanate

Ma'bar Sultanate (Persian: مابار سلطنت‎), unofficially known as the Madurai Sultanate, was a short lived independent kingdom based in the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, India. The sultanate was proclaimed in 1335 when the then viceroy of Madurai, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared his independence from the Delhi Sultanate. Ahsan Khan and his descendants ruled Madurai and surrounding territories until 1378 when the last sultan, Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah fell in battle against the forces of the Vijayanagara Empire led by Kumara Kampana. During this short span of 43 years, the Sultanate had 8 different rulers.

Sultanate of Ma'bar
مابار سلطنت
Common languagesPersian (official)
Islam (official)
• 1335–1339
Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan
• 1368–1378
Sikander Khan
• Established
• Disestablished
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Delhi Sultanate
Vijayanagara Empire
Today part ofIndia


Coin of Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan first ruler of the Sultanate of Madurai

The Chola kings, who dominated Tamil Nadu for over two centuries (approximately 950 AD to 1200 AD) waned, and Pandya kings had the upper hand for the next century (approximately 1200 AD to 1300 AD). King Maravarman Kulasekhara Pandyan (1268 - 1310) had two sons Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan and Jatavarman Veera Pandyan. The elder son, Sundara Pandyan, was by The king's wife and the younger, Veera Pandyan, was by a mistress. Contrary to tradition, the king proclaimed that the younger son would succeed him.This enraged Sundara Pandyan. He killed the father and became king in 1310. Some local chieftains in the kingdom swore allegiance to the younger brother Veera Pandian and a civil war broke out.[1]

Sundara Pandyan was defeated and he fled the country. He sought help from the far off northern ruler Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji, who was ruling much of northern India from Delhi. At that time, his army under General Malik Kafur was in the south at Dvarasamudra (far to the north of Tamil Nadu). Khilji agreed to help Sundara Pandyan and ordered Malik Kafur's army to march to Tamil Nadu. With Sundara Pandyan's assistance, this Muslim army from the north entered Tamil Nadu in 1311. Many historians believe that Malik Kafur, who was based in Dvarasamudra at that time, was not planning to march south all the way to Tamil Nadu, and that, but for Sundara Pandyan's request to Sultan Ala-ud-din Khilji, he would never have invaded Tamil Nadu. Thus the first invasion of Tamil Nadu from Delhi was a direct result of the internal quarrel in the Pandyan royal family.[2] Following this there were two more expeditions from the Delhi Sultanate – the second in 1314 CE led by Khusro Khan and the third in 1323 CE by Ulugh Khan. These invasions shattered the Pandyan empire beyond revival. While the previous invasions were content with plunder, Ulugh Khan annexed the former Pandyan dominions to the Delhi Sultanate as the province of Ma'bar. Most of South India came under the Delhi's rule and was divided into five provinces – Devagiri, Tiling, Kampili, Dorasamudra and Ma'bar.[3]

In 1325, Ulugh Khan acceded to the throne in Delhi as Muhammad bin Tughluq. His plans for invading Persia and Khorasan bankrupted his treasury and led to the issuing of token currency. This led to counterfeiting and further worsened the sultanate's finances. He was unable to pay his huge army and the soldiers stationed in distant provinces revolted. The first province to rebel was Bengal and Ma'bar soon followed. The Governor of Ma'bar, Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence and set up the Madurai Sultanate.[4]</ref> The exact year of founding of the Madurai Sultanate is not clear. Numismatic evidence points to 1335 CE as the founding year.[5] The Persian historian Firishta however places the year of Ma'bar's revolt as 1340 CE.[6]

This short lived Muslim dynasty at Madurai came into existence following the decline of the Second Pandyan empire, and ruled Madurai, Trichinopoly and parts of South Arcot, for the next 43 years, first as feudatories of the Delhi Sultanate and later as independent monarchies lasting until 1378.[7] The Madurai Sultanate was destroyed by the rise of Vijayanagar, later followed by the Madurai Nayaks.

A rich merchant from the Ma'bar Sultanate, Abu Ali (P'aehali) 孛哈里 (or 布哈爾 Buhaer), was associated closely with the Ma'bar royal family. After falling out with them, he moved to Yuan dynasty China and received a Korean woman as his wife and a job from the Mongol Emperor; the woman was formerly 桑哥 Sangha's wife and her father was 蔡仁揆 채송년 Ch'ae In'gyu during the reign of 忠烈 Chungnyeol of Goryeo, recorded in the Dongguk Tonggam, Goryeosa and 留夢炎 Liu Mengyan's 中俺集 Zhong'anji.[8][9] 桑哥 Sangha was a Tibetan.[10]

Jalal-ud-Din Ahsan KhanEdit

Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan declared independence from Delhi Sultanate around 1335 CE. His daughter was married to the historian Ibn Battuta and his son Ibrahim was the purse bearer of Muhammad bin Tughluq.[11] When Tughluq heard of Jalaluddin's rebellion he had Ibrahim killed in retaliation. Jalaluddin is variously referred to as "Syed", "Hasan" or "Hussun" by the historians Firishta and Ziauddin Barani. Tughluq tried to conquer the Tamil region, known in Muslim chronicles as Ma'bar back in 1337 CE. But he fell ill at Bidar on the way to Ma'bar and had to return to Deogiri. His army was defeated by Jalaluddin.[12] Jalaluddin was killed by one of his nobles in 1340 CE.[11]

Ala-ud-Din Udauji and Qutb-ud-Din FiruzEdit

Coin of Ala-ud-Din Udauji, Madurai Sultanate, 1339 AD.

After Jalaluddin's murder, Ala-ud-Din Udauji Shah took power in 1340 CE. He was succeeded by his son in law Qutb-ud-Din Firuz Shah, who in turn was assassinated within forty days of taking power. Qutbuddin's killer Ghiyas-ud-din Dhamagani took over as Sultan in 1340.

Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad DamghaniEdit

Ghiyasuddin was defeated by the Hoysala king Veera Ballala III at first, but later managed to capture and kill Ballala in 1343 CE during the siege of Kannanur Koppam. Ghiyasuddin captured Balalla, robbed him of his wealth, had him killed and his stuffed body displayed on the walls of Madurai.[13] Ghiyasuddin died in 1344 CE from the after effects of an aphrodisiac.[14]

Ibn Battuta's chroniclesEdit

During his reign, Ibn Battuta, the Muslim Moroccan explorer known for his extensive travels through Africa and Asia, visited his court while on his way to China. He married Jalaluddin Ahsan Khan's daughter. His travel notes mention Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani's atrocious behaviour towards the local population. His army under his personal orders had the habit of frequently rounding up the local villagers, indiscriminately impaling them on sharpened wooden spikes and leaving them to die.[15] These accounts of were published in a travelogue that has come to be known as The Rihla (lit. "Journey"). This History is also displayed in Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai[16]

Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghan ShahEdit

Ghiyasuddin was succeeded by his nephew Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Damghan Shah, reportedly a soldier of lowly origins who originated from Delhi. He upon ascension quickly started dismissing and killing many of the officers and nobles and various political enemies who were likely to disturb his possession of the throne.[15] He too fell into decline and was killed in a short time.


From contemporary historical accounts, the rulers of Madurai Sultanate come across as tyrants and persecutors of Hindus. Both Ibn Batutta's and Gangadevi's accounts contain graphic descriptions of atrocities committed by the Sultans on the Hindu population.

Ibn Batuta describes Ghiyasuddin Dhamgani's actions as:

the Hindu prisoners were divided into four sections and taken to each of the four gates of the great catcar. There, on the stakes they had carried, the prisoners were impaled. Afterwards their wives were killed and tied by their hair to these pales. Little children were massacred on the bosoms of their mothers and their corpses left there. Then, the camp was raised, and they started cutting down the trees of another forest. In the same manner did they treat their later Hindu prisoners. This is shameful conduct such as I have not known any other sovereign guilty of. It is for this that God hastened the death of Ghiyath-eddin.

One day whilst the Kadhi (Kazi) and I were having our food with (Ghiyazu-d-din), the Kazi to his right and I to his left, an infidel was brought before him accompanied by his wife and son aged seven years. The Sultan made a sign with his hand to the executioners to cut off the head of this man ; then he said to them in Arabic : 'and the son and the wife.' They cut off their heads and I turned my eyes away. When I looked again, I saw their heads lying on the ground.

I was another time with the Sultan Ghiyath-eddin when a Hindu was brought into his presence. He uttered words I did not understand, and immediately several of his followers drew their daggers. I rose hurriedly, and he said to me ; ' Where are you going ' ? I replied : ' I am going to say my afternoon (4 o'clock) prayers. ' He understood my reason, smiled, and ordered the hands and feet of the idolater to be cut off. On my return I found the unfortunate swimming in his blood.[17]

Gangadevi's Madhura Vijayam declares the Muslim rule to be the pain to the three worlds:

O mighty and brave king! Go forth then, and without further delay uproot from my lands this Kingdom of turushkas, pain to the three worlds. Go forth my dear Lord, and securing your victory, establish One Hundred Victory Pillars in middle of the famed Rama-setu![18]

On the condition of Madurai under the Muslim rule, Gangadevi writes:

I very much lament for what has happened to the groves in Madhura. The coconut trees have all been cut and in their place are to be seen rows of iron spikes with human skulls dangling at the points.

In the highways which were once charming with the sounds of anklets of beautiful women, are now heard ear-piercing noises of Brahmins being dragged, bound in iron fetters.

...The waters of Tambraparni which were once white with sandal paste rubbed away from the breasts of charming girls are now flowing red with the blood of cows slaughtered by the miscreants.[19]

Ibn Batuta describes a plague afflicting Madurai:

When I arrived at Madura, there was a contagious disease prevalent there which killed people in a short time. Those who were attacked succumbed in two or three days. If their end was delayed, it was only until the fourth day. On leaving my dwelling, I saw people either sick or dead.[20][21]

Gangadevi agrees with the Ibn Battuta on the prevalence of unnatural death:

The God of death takes his undue toll of what are left [of] lives if undestroyed by the Yavanas.[22]


Between 1344 and 1357 CE, the Madurai Sultanate went into a decline due to infighting and the rise of Vijayanagar in the North. This is inferred by the lack of any coinage issued during this period. However coins from 1358 to 1378 bearing the names of three Madurai Sultans – Shams-ud-Din Adil Shah, Fakhr-ud-Din Mubarak Shah and Ala-ud-Din Sikandar Shah – have been found. This indicates an interruption of the Muslim power during 1344–57 CE and a brief revival during 1357–78 CE.[23]


The Vijayanagara Empire under Bukka Raya I made a series of efforts to conquer South India. There were a series of Vijayanagaran invasions in the middle of the fourteenth century which succeeded in initially restricting and finally ending the Madurai Sultanate's rule over South India. Vijayanagar's armies were led by Bukka's son, Kumara Kampana. Kampana first subdued the Sambuvaraya dynasty in present-day Kanchipuram district, then a vassal of Delhi Sultanate who refused to aid the Madurai conquest and then conquered Madurai. Kampana's invasion has been chronicled in the Sanskrit epic poem Madura Vijayam ("The Conquest of Madurai") or Vira Kamparaya Charithram ("History of Kampana"), written by Kampana's wife Gangadevi. Kampana's victory is symbolised by the restoration of the Srirangam temple to its old glory in 1371 CE. Vijayanagara formally declared Madurai to be its possession during Harihara II's rule in 1378 CE.[24]

Shahs of MaduraiEdit

Titular Name Personal Name Reign
Independence from Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi Sultanate.
Jalal-ud-din Shah
جلال الدین شاہ
Ahsan Khan 1335–1339 CE
Ala-ud-din Shah
علاء الدین شاہ
Udauji 1339 CE
Qutb-ud-din Shah
قطب الدین شاہ
Feroze Khan 1339–1340 CE
Ghiyath-ud-din Shah
غیاث الدین شاہ
Muhammad Damghani 1340–1344 CE
Nasir-ud-din Shah
ناصر الدین شاہ
Mahmud Damghani 1344–1345 CE
Shams-ud-din Shah
شمس الدین شاہ
Adil Khan 1356–1358 CE
Fakhr-ud-din Shah
فخرالدین شاہ
Mubarak Khan 1358–1368 CE
Ala-ud-din Shah II
علاء الدین شاہ
Sikandar Khan 1368–1378 CE
Conquered by Vijayanagar Empire.



  1. ^ Muslim Architecture of South India : the Sultanate of Ma'bar and the Traditions of Maritime Settlers on the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa). Taylor and Francis. 2013. pp. 65–110. ISBN 978-1-136-49984-5. OCLC 958544485.
  2. ^ Muslim Architecture of South India : the Sultanate of Ma'bar and the Traditions of Maritime Settlers on the Malabar and Coromandel Coasts (Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Goa). Taylor and Francis. 2013. pp. 160–210. ISBN 978-1-136-49984-5. OCLC 958544485.
  3. ^ Nilanakta Sastri (1958), p. 213.
  4. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 138.
  5. ^ Aiyangar (1921), pp. 152–53.
  6. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 152.
  7. ^ Majumdar 2006, pp. 233–7
  8. ^ Angela Schottenhammer (2008). The East Asian Mediterranean: Maritime Crossroads of Culture, Commerce and Human Migration. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 138–. ISBN 978-3-447-05809-4.
  9. ^ Sen, Tansen (2006) “The Yuan Khanate and India: Cross-cultural Diplomacy in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries”. Asia Major 19 (1/2). Academia Sinica: 317.
  10. ^ p. 15.
  11. ^ a b Aiyangar (1921), p. 165.
  12. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 154.
  13. ^ Nilanakta Sastri (1958), pp. 217–18.
  14. ^ Aiyangar (1921), pp. 166–69.
  15. ^ a b Jerry Bently, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler of the 14th Century by Ross E. Dunn (University of California Press, 1986),245.
  16. ^
  17. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 236.
  18. ^ A Portion from Madhura Vijaya
  19. ^ Chattopadhyaya (2006), p. 141.
  20. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 240.
  21. ^ Lee (1829), p. 191.
  22. ^ Chattopadhyaya (2006), p. 142.
  23. ^ Aiyangar (1921), p. 176.
  24. ^ Nilakanta Sastri (1958), p. 241.