History of India
June 17, 2016
Medieval Indian history - the Slave dynasty
- Padma Mohan Kumar, freelance writer
The period, spanning the years from 1193 to 1290 marks a unique era in medieval Indian history when northern India was ruled by Turkish slaves. Qutb-ud-din Aibak’s rise to power in Delhi marked the beginning of the Slave dynasty and it ended with the murder of its last ruler Qaiqabad and his infant son.
The rule of the Slave dynasty was however preceded by a number of Islamic invasions which were provoked by the vulnerable condition of the country. Northern India at the beginning of the medieval period presented a picture of disunity. There were several small Rajput states that were constantly at war with one another. Their mutual warfare caused wastage of valuable resources in men and materials. Owing to their depleted military strength, they failed to stave off the Islamic invasions. There was no strong leader to unify the country against the invaders.
The Arabs invaded Sindh in 711-712 AD. Dahir the ruler of Sindh put up a valiant resistance but he lost his life in the conflict. The Arabs conquered Sindh and Multan but their attempts to expand their conquests were thwarted by the Indian princes. The next Islamic invader to ravage India was Mahmud of Ghazni. He subjected the rich country to loot and plunder, 17 times between the years 1000-1027 AD. During his last invasion of India in 1027 AD he ransacked the rich temple of Somnath in Gujarat.
The country had hardly recovered from these blows when it was yet again subjected to a series of invasions by the Afghan invader, Mohammed Ghori. He first captured Multan and then Uchh in 1175. In 1178 he built a fort in Uchh in order to establish a base there. His attempts to attack Gujarat were repulsed by its young ruler, Raja Bhimdeva II. Ghori then invaded and captured Lahore in 1181 and constructed a fort in Sialkot. By that year he had brought the previous conquests of the Ghaznavis under the Ghori rule. They then came into conflict with the heroic Rajput ruler of Delhi and Ajmer, Prithviraj Chauhan who defeated them at the battle of Tarain in 1191. However, Mohammed Ghori was able to turn the tables at the second battle of Tarain in 1192. Prithviraj Chauhan was vanquished and put to death.
After his victory over Prithviraj Chauhan, Mohammed Ghori proceeded to capture other regions of Ajmer such as Saraswati, Khoram, Samana and Hansi. He had succeeded in bringing the northern parts of Rajasthan and the Ganga-Yamuna Doab region under his control. However, he had to return to his empire in Afghanistan owing to disturbances on the western frontier of the country. He left his deputy Qutb-ud-din Aibak in charge of his Indian conquests. Qutb-ud-din Aibak was originally a slave of Mohammed Ghori but he rose to a high rank by dint of sheer merit. Mohammed Ghori returned to Afghanistan after capturing Delhi in 1193, but he was assassinated in 1206.
All the rulers who ascended the throne of Delhi after Mohammed Ghori were either slaves or the descendants of these slave rulers. Hence this dynasty is referred to as the Slave Dynasty or the Mamluk Dynasty. This dynasty ruled from Delhi till 1290.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak was a Turkish slave officer who had progressed well in his career under the patronage of Mohammed Ghori. He rose to be a general. After the departure of Mohammed Ghori for Khorasan in 1193, the task of strengthening Ghurid control over north-west India was left to Qutb-ud-din Aibak. He conquered the areas between the rivers Ganga and Jamuna while his lieutenant Bakhtiyar Khalji vanquished Bihar and Bengal. Between the years 1195 and 1203 Qutb-ud-din Aibak launched a series of campaigns against the Rajput forts as the Rajputs were still resisting Ghurid domination.
After the death of Mohammed Ghori in 1206, Qutb-ud-din Aibak succeeded him as the ruler. His status as a slave was a legal obstacle for him, but he overcame that hurdle by obtaining manumission. He now established himself as an independent ruler. He further strengthened his position by forming marriage alliances. His empire consisted of Delhi, Punjab Bengal, Kalinjar and Gujarat.
Qutb-ud-din was an able administrator. His administration was based on military strength. Garrisons were posted in all the important towns of the kingdom. He also patronized scholars such as Hasan Nizami and Fakhr-Ud-din. He had built two big mosques, the Quwwatul Islam mosque at Delhi and the Adhai Din Ka Jhopda at Ajmer. He also started the construction of the famed Qutb Minar which was later completed by his successor Iltutmish. Qutb-ud-din was extremely generous and was known as Lakh Baksh Sultan. His reign was cut short by his accidental death during a game of polo in 1210.
Qutb-ud-din was succeeded by his slave and son-in-law Shamsuddin Iltutmish who ascended the throne of Delhi in 1211 after deposing his former master’s son Aram Baksh. Iltutmish, who was among the leading rulers of the dynasty, was a Turk of the Ilbari tribe. He began his career as a slave of Qutb-ud-din Aibak. Aibak was impressed by his sterling qualities. It was only a matter of time before Iltutmish rose to be the Governor of Gwalior.
After his accession to the throne of Delhi, he set about meeting the challenges facing him. He had three rivals to deal with, namely, Tajuddin of Ghazni, Qabacha of Sind and Ali Mardan of Bengal. He successfully subjugated all the three. He also regained for the Sultanate the Rajput kingdoms of Gwalior and Ranthambhor which had broken away during the weak rule of his predecessor Aram Baksh. He brought the areas extending from the Sutlej to the Beas under his control. Bengal had earlier broken away after the death of Qutb-ud-din but Itutmish defeated its ruler and retook the province. He also conquered Malwa including Bhilsa and Ujjain.
However, his greatest achievement was the way in which he averted the Mongol threat to the Turkish Empire, which was just getting established at Delhi. In 1221 the Mongol forces were in hot pursuit of Jalaluddin Mangbarni, the ruler of a principality corresponding to modern day Khiva. Jalaluddin requested Iltutmish for asylum. The latter realized that granting asylum to the fugitive would be inviting the Mongol peril so he politely refused the request of the fugitive. The Mongol threat was averted when the invaders withdrew to Peshawar.
Iltutmish can be described as the actual founder of the Slave dynasty as he had consolidated his hold over his conquests. Under his rule, the empire extended to a large part of the country. He was considered the absolute ruler of his Indian conquests. In 1229 the Caliph of Baghdad conferred on him the title of Sultan-i-Azam (Great Sultan). This greatly enhanced his standing in the Muslim world.
Iltutmish is said to have established a corps of 40 hand-picked Amirs or nobles who were appointed to key posts in the civil and military administration. They were known as the Chalisa. They kept him informed about every development in the empire. They were his chief advisors and served him with unflinching loyalty. Iltutmish owed his success as a ruler to these faithful nobles.
He brought in a number of administrative reforms. The iqta system which was based on tax farming was introduced by Iltutmish. Under this system the empire was divided into iqtas, the revenues of which were assigned to the nobles and officers instead of salary. This grant was not hereditary and was passed from officer to officer. The iqta system helped to link the remote parts of the empire to the central government.
Another important administrative reform was the introduction of two coins of the Delhi Sultanate viz. the silver tanka and the copper jital. Prior to his reign the coins introduced by the invaders bore Sanskrit characters and even the bull and the Shivalinga. After he received the title of Sovereign Sultan of Delhi from the Caliph of Baghdad, the coins issued by his administration were engraved with the words, “The Mighty Sultan, Sun of the Empire and the Faith, Conquest-laden, Iltutmish.” He was the first to introduce an Arabic coin in India. The silver tanka weighed 175 grains. As per Iltutmish’s reform, the army was recruited and paid by the central government.
The Hauz-i-Shamsi, a reservoir in South Delhi was built by Iltutmish. According to popular legend, the Prophet Muhammad appeared to Iltutmish in a dream and instructed him to build a tank at a particular site. The next day the Sultan went to the site to inspect it. He found a hoof print of Muhammad’s horse. He built a pavilion to mark the site of the hoof print and a large tank around the structure to harvest rainwater. He erected the first Islamic mausoleum at Sultangarhi, in memory of his eldest son Nasir-ud-din Mahmud who died in 1229 while governing Bengal as his father’s deputy.
However, Iltutmish’s major architectural achievement was the completion of the Qutb Minar, the major historical landmark of Delhi, the construction of which was started by Qutb-ud-din. There are reports which suggest that the foundations of this 239ft, five-storeyed tower were laid by the Rajputs. It is said that the site consisted of multiple temples built by the Tomaras and Chauhans, and that Qutb-ud-din destroyed these temples to use the material to build the Tower of Victory or the Qutb Minar. However he could complete just one storey.
The tower was named after Khwaja Qutub-ud-din, a religious teacher of Ush (near Baghdad). He was deeply venerated by Iltutmish. The names of Iltutmish’s two predecessors Sultan Qutb-ud-din and Sultan Mu’iz-ud-din were inscribed on the tower as a mark of his gratitude to them. In 1235 he built a tomb, which is situated to the north-west of the Quwwatul Islam mosque, built by Sultan Qutb-ud-din. In contrast to its stark exterior, the interior of the tomb is richly decorated with ancient Hindu motifs such as the wheel, the lotus, the bell with chain and the tassel. Iltutmish built several monasteries and graves for Sufi saints. Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki was a Sufi saint who moved to Delhi during the reign of Iltutmish. The Sultan had constructed a step well, known as Gandhak ki Baoli, for him.
Iltutmish was disappointed with his surviving sons as they did not have the ability to rule the kingdom. Hence he nominated his daughter Raziya as his successor. He passed away in 1236.
Raziya Sultan occupies a unique position in Indian history as she was the first and the last Muslim woman ruler to ascend the throne of Delhi. She had received full military training and education even in her childhood. She would frequently accompany her father in his military expeditions. She was acknowledged as an expert archer and horse rider. Once, Iltutmish had entrusted the government of Delhi to her before setting out on a military campaign against Gwalior. She acquitted herself so well that her father was left in no doubt about the fact that she was far worthier than her brothers to succeed to the throne.
However the Turkish nobility was dead against the idea of a woman ruling over them. After Iltutmish’s death, they nominated Raziya’s brother Ruknuddin Firuz to the throne of Delhi. The new ruler was a worthless pleasure-seeking individual. The reins of government were in the hands of his mother Shah Turkan, who was a cruel despot. However Raziya succeeded in overthrowing Ruknuddin and his mother after seven months. She ascended the throne with the support of the people of Delhi, with the title of Jalalat-ud-din Raziya. She insisted on being addressed as ‘Sultan’ since it established her standing as a monarch in her own right. The term ‘Sultana’ meant the wife or consort of a king and she would have none of that. The Turkish nobility accepted her accession to the throne with the greatest reluctance.
She proved to be an excellent administrator and devoted herself to setting up law and order in the empire. She had roads built and wells dug. She also encouraged trade. She gave great priority to education by setting up schools, academic centres and libraries. These included not only works based on Islamic traditions but also those of ancient philosophers of other religions. Hindu treatises on science, astronomy, philosophy and literature were studied in schools and other academic centres. She was far ahead of her times in her secular outlook. She once tried to appoint a converted Indian Muslim to an official position, but she had to face stiff opposition from the Turkish nobility. On numerous occasions she had proved that she had a mind of her own and could stand her ground when necessary.
She had all the qualities of a monarch but it was only her gender which went against her. One of the chief reasons for her downfall was her perceived partiality towards an Abyssinian slave named Jamal-ud-din Yakut. He was earlier Amir-i-Akhur (Lord of the stables). She raised him to the position of Amir-ul-Umra (Chief of the Nobles). The position of Amir-ul-Umra was earlier held only by a Turk of highest order. Yakut’s appointment created misunderstandings among the Turkish nobility who were enraged at this perceived slight.
Her alleged intimacy with Yakut was used as an opportunity to indulge in character assassination. It was also said that she was romantically involved with a Turkish noble named Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Altunia who had been her childhood friend and whom she had raised to the position of Governor of Bhatinda. The Turkish nobility poisoned Altunia’s mind against Yakut with their falsehoods about the relationship between Raziya and Yaqut. Altunia was now enraged and determined to win her back even if it meant raising the flag of rebellion.
He conspired with the other Turkish nobles to form a plan of organized resistance. They knew that it would not be possible to stage an uprising against the queen as long as she was in Delhi. The precautionary measures in force would have made any sUchh move impossible. Hence it was important to ensure that she moved away from the capital so that they could launch their attack. The leader of this conspiracy was Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Aitigin, who was the governor of Badaun.
In accordance with their carefully laid out plan, Altuniya first raised the standard of revolt. Raziya immediately marched out of Delhi to quell the revolt. The Turkish nobility under Aitigin took advantage of her absence to capture Yakut and put him to death. They then joined up with Altuniya to defeat and capture Raziya. She was entrusted to the care of Altuniya while the rest of the nobles returned to Delhi. Raziya was imprisoned in April 1240 at Qila Mubarak in Bhatinda but she enjoyed all the royal privileges. She was allowed to offer the Friday prayers at the Hajirattan mosque. Altuniya visited her regularly and it was not long before the two got married. Raziya was released in August 1240.
Meanwhile her brother Muizuddin Bahram usurped the throne on 21st April, 1240. Altuniya and Raziya decided to wage war against him and recover the throne. They marched towards Delhi. But they suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Muizuddin Bahram. According to some sources Bahram had them captured and executed the next day. Other sources state that they fled from Delhi and reached Kaithal where they were both robbed and killed by Jats in October 1240. Thus ended the life of one of the most illustrious rulers India had ever known.
The Turkish nobility had put Muizuddin Bahram on the throne with the clear understanding that he would give them a free hand in ruling the country and that he would not meddle in these affairs. The nobility set about their business straight away. Malik Ikhtiar-ud-din Aitigin, who had headed the conspiracy against Raziya Sultan, was appointed to the newly-created post of Naib-i-Mamlikat (Commissioner). He considered himself equal to the Sultan and took all measures to increase his power and prestige. However, he exceeded his limits when he married a sister of the Sultan and claimed royal privileges such as keeping an elephant tied at the gates of his palace and having the drums beaten there. Sultan Bahram felt that he could not take any more of such presumptuousness and he had Aitigin murdered. One of the 40 nobles, Badr-ud-Din Sunqar, who was the Amir-i- Hajib, now appropriated all the powers which were formerly exercised by Aitigin. Soon enough he too met with the same fate as Aitigin’s.
The deaths of these two nobles alarmed the rest of the nobility and they joined hands with the ulema (the clergy) in a conspiracy bid against Bahram. They got their opportunity during the invasion of the Mongols in 1241. The invaders failed to take Multan but they marched towards Lahore and captured it in December 1241. The city was weakly defended and a force sent by Bahram failed to save the situation. The governor fled the city while the inhabitants were subjected to plunder and massacre, by the invading army. It was during this period of unrest that Bahram was murdered (1242).
Ala-ud-din Masud was the son of Ruknuddin, who had ruled for seven months before Raziya Sultan succeeded to the throne. Ala-ud-din was the seventh ruler of the Slave dynasty. His rule lasted till 1246 during which period the Sultanate began to break up.
Tamar Khan, the governor of Bengal, not only declared the independence of his province from the Sultanate but annexed Bihar as well. Multan and Uchh too broke away while the Khokhar tribe in the salt ranges of Punjab became increasingly aggressive. The Hindu chieftains in the Gangetic valley rose up in revolt against the Sultanate. This weak monarch was deposed in 1246 by the 40 nobles and replaced by Nasiruddin Mahmud another grandson of Iltutmish. Ala-ud-din was assassinated after his overthrow.
Nasiruddin Mahmud was a young lad of 17 years when he succeeded to the throne in 1246. This gentle youngster was totally devoid of ambition. It is said that he had earlier served as governor of Bahraich during the reigns of his predecessors. He was of a very pious nature and devoted himself solely to religious activities, leaving all administrative responsibilities to the Turkish nobility who ruled on his behalf. Chief among these nobles was Ghiasuddin Balban who was the main prop behind the young Sultan.
Balban as minister under Nasiruddin
Balban, who was an Ilbari Turk, began life as a slave. Shamsuddin Iltutmish had purchased him from a Sufi teacher of Basra named Khwaja Jamal ud-din. Balban, whose first appointment was that of a humble water carrier, was quickly elevated to the position of Khasdar (king’s personal attendant) by Iltutmish. During the reign of Raziya Sultan he was made amir-i-shikar or lord of the hunt. This position entailed military and political responsibilities. He made rapid strides in his career after the overthrow of Raziya Sultan. During the reign of Bahram Shah, he earned the fief of Rewari and later on became the jagirdar of Hansi. He had become one of the most important amirs among the Chalisa or the Turkish nobility of Delhi. He played a prime role in the overthrow of Ala-ud-din Masud and with the support of the Turkish nobility he ensured the accession of Nasiruddin Mahmud to the throne.
Nasiruddin, owing to his pliable nature and utter lack of interest in state matters, was acceptable to all sections of the nobility. Fortunately for him, there was no clash of interests among the nobility, as such a situation would have imperiled his very life. The nobility respected him and permitted him to choose one of them as his minister (Wazir). He chose Ghiasuddin Balban and the rest of the nobility consented to his choice. There was a very close rapport between Nasiruddin and Balban. The relationship between the two was further cemented when Balban gave his daughter in marriage to the Sultan in 1249. Nasiruddin, in return, made him the Naib-i-mamlikat. Another noble named Abu Bakr was appointed as the new Wazir but he acted under the dictates of Balban. The latter held the reins of administration tightly in his hands. He however treated the Sultan with due respect and courtesy.
The Sultanate was literally in shambles when Balban took over the reins of administration. The frequent change of Sultans, the political murders and the court intrigues had weakened the central authority of the Turkish Sultanate. The Turkish governors of the far-off provinces were trying to throw off the central yoke and assert their independence. The Rajput rulers were also rising up in revolt against the Turkish Sultanate. Moreover, the repeated Mongol incursions had weakened the northwestern region.
Balban followed a policy of blood and iron in dealing with these various challenges. According to certain sources, he put down the uprisings of the Rajput rulers of Ranthambor, Gwalior, Malwa and Chanderi. The princes of the Doab were also dealt with firmly. But other sources state that he lacked the resources to subjugate the powerful Hindu kingdoms which bordered the Delhi Sultanate in Central India and the Gangetic Valley. His expeditions to Malwa, Bundelkhand and Rajputana did not yield much success. The Chandelas of Bundelkhand were defeated in 1248-1249 but Balban’s efforts to take their city, Kalinjar proved to be abortive. His attempt to retake Gwalior in 1251-52 also met with failure. During the decade spanning the years 1248-59 he attempted thrice to conquer Ranthambhor but there again he met with failure. Balban did not follow a very aggressive policy towards the Hindu states during Nasiruddin’s reign.
The conspiracies of the Turkish Amirs and Maliks were proving to be a source of danger to the Sultanate. He suppressed their activities with a firm hand. Balban also had to deal with rebellious governors and nobles. Chief among these were Kishlu Khan, governor of Nagore, and Qutlugh Khan the subehdar of Oudh. Kishlu Khan was not satisfied with the governorship of Nagor. He wanted to be governor of Sindh and Multan too. Both Qutlugh Khan and Kishlu Khan were supported by Imaduddin Raihan, an Indian Muslim. In 1253 a conspiracy was hatched against Balban. They succeeded in poisoning the ears of the Sultan against him and even tried to murder him. When Balban came to know of it he offered to resign from his post. He was sent out as governor of Hansi while Imaduddin Raihan became Naib-i-mamlikat in his stead. But Raihan was no match for his predecessor when it came to running the government. It was not long before he incurred the displeasure of the Sultan. Balban was able to make a comeback with the support of the nobility. He was reinstated in his former position as Naib-i-mamlikat. The rebels were pardoned and sent out on provincial assignments. Raihan was appointed as governor of Badaun. The governorship of Oudh was given to Qutlugh Khan while Kishlu Khan was appointed governor of Uchh and Multan in 1254. He was given the responsibility of protecting the region from the Mongol menace.
However these measures failed to pacify the rebels and in 1256 Imaduddin Raihan and Qutlugh Khan again revolted against Balban. Balban marched out to Badaun to quell their revolt. Raihan was killed in the ensuing conflict while Qutlugh Khan fled towards the Sirmur hills. Kishlu Khan too continued to nurse his resentment against Balban even though the latter had maintained a conciliatory approach towards him. In 1257, the Mongols attacked Uchh and Multan. Kishlu Khan instead of warding off their attack, acknowledged the over lordship of the Mongol ruler Halaku Khan. He even entered into a treaty with the Mongols for a joint attack on Delhi. However Kishlu Khan’s plans were foiled by Balban, who not only made effective arrangements for the defense of Delhi but also established diplomatic contacts with Halaku Khan. The Mongol envoys who visited Delhi in 1258-1259 were impressed by the strength and prosperity of the Sultanate. They were convinced of its military prowess and hence refrained from entering into conflicts with it. However, owing to the Mongol presence, Balban could not establish effective control over Sindh, Multan and Lahore.
Another challenge to Balban’s authority was posed by the Mewati community, which belonged to the Mewat district of Haryana, parts of Alwar and Bharatpur districts in Rajasthan. They had grown in power and strength during this period. They were dreaded for their ruthlessness and lawlessness. They indulged in loot, plunder and murder of innocent people. However, it was their turn to feel the weight of Balban’s hand. In 1259 they were subjected to merciless reprisals. The Turkish forces slaughtered about 12000 of the Mewatis and carried off a massive loot of 21000 tankas. However, notwithstanding the bloodshed Balban could not crush them completely.
Balban was able to strengthen the Sultanate. He saved it from disintegration and restored the confidence of the populace in the ability of the government to protect them. He toned up the administration and restored law and order. The prestige of the central government rose as a result of his measures.
The young sultan Nasiruddin’s reign came to an end with his death in 1266. He had left no male heirs behind, hence it is said that he had nominated Balban as his successor before his death. According to the historian Isami, Balban had his son-in-law poisoned to death. But this is contrary to the fact that the relationship between the two had always been very affectionate. Balban had served Nasiruddin very loyally during his tenure of 20 years as minister. He had during these years strengthened his position to such an extent that he was already acknowledged as the de facto Sultan.
Balban as Sultan
Balban’s accession to the throne was marked by a number of vexing problems. He had to establish an efficient administration, prevent the Mongol raids, strengthen the frontiers of the Sultanate against the powerful Hindu kingdoms, deal with the chiefs of the Doab, and assert the authority of the Sultanate over the rebellious provincial governors. He knew that he had to enforce discipline by instilling a general fear of punishment. Law and order had to be restored. Moreover the royal treasury was almost empty. There had to be incoming state revenues in order to strengthen the state defences. During his tenure as minister he had managed to keep these problems at bay but now as Sultan he took more drastic steps.
He first devoted himself to reorganizing the military. The charge of the army was taken out of the hands of the Wazir and handed to Imadul Mulk, an experienced Amir, who was also an old trusted friend of the new Sultan. He was appointed Diwan-i-ariz or the army minister and given powers equivalent to those of the other ministers. Though he did not enjoy the actual command of the army, he looked after the defences of the forts and deployed the royal forces at strategic points.
Able, efficient and loyal Maliks were placed in charge of different sections of the army. The cavalry and infantry became more effective owing to the reorganization. Balban was able to put down the dreaded Mewatis with the help of this army. He attacked Kampil, Bhojpur and Patiala which were the centres of the Mewatis and liquidated them. The people were freed from this menace while the highways became safe for travel. The marked improvement in safety and security led to an increase in trade and commerce. In fact the Mewatis were put down so effectively that the roads remained safe for travel even for about sixty years after Balban’s reign.
Right from the days of Qutub-ud-din and Iltutmish, military officers had been receiving land grants or iqtas in lieu of salary. In Balban’s time many of these officers had either retired due to old age or had expired. These lands or fiefs were now held by their descendants as family heritage. Balban ordered that all those lands, whose original owners had expired, and where the successors did not render military service, should be returned to the state. The nobility resented this step and they approached Fakhruddin, a trusted lieutenant and friend of the Sultan, to intervene on their behalf. Fakhruddin dissuaded the Sultan from following the proposed course of action on the plea that such an action would lead to an uprising among the nobility. The Sultan heeded his advice and refrained from taking back the land. Hence Balban was prevented from bringing in radical changes in the army organization. There was no permanent standing army, though the number of royal guards was increased to several thousands and they constituted a well-trained and well-equipped fighting force. The iqtadars or the fief holders provided military contingents to the central government as and when required and as per their specifications.
But Balban curbed the power of the Forty or the Chalisa by subjecting them to severe humiliation for their wrongdoings. He also promoted junior Turk officials to higher positions. Such disciplinary measures strengthened the administration. He was a despot and he believed that authoritarianism was necessary to exact obedience from his subjects and to ensure the integrity of the state.
He propounded his theory of kingship according to which the king was God’s representative on earth and that kingship was a divine institution.He introduced a very rigid system of court etiquette which was based on the Persian model. This involved paying respects to the monarch through the system of sijda or lying prostrate and paibos or kissing the monarch’s feet in the court. He was always surrounded by tall guards brandishing naked swords. They accompanied him whenever he stepped out of the palace.
He initiated the celebration of Nauroz or the Persian New Year in order to enhance the grandeur of the court. Drinking was taboo for the courtiers and officers. Court etiquette was so rigid that any form of frivolity was frowned upon. All these inflexible norms helped to restore the dignity and prestige of the Sultanate. The Sultan also set up an efficient espionage system which kept him informed of the happenings in the different parts of the kingdom. Secret news writers sent him confidential information about every important development in every district of the Sultanate. They were posted in every section of each district administration. Severe punishment was meted out to those who failed to do their duty. Balban thus succeeded in strengthening his authority.
He now turned to the problem of providing security against Mongol raids. Sher Khan, a close kinsman of the Sultan, and who was the jagirdar of a vast area in Lahore and Dipalpur, succeeded in beating off the Mongol raids. Unfortunately his competence excited the jealousy and suspicion of the Sultan who had him poisoned to death. Balban appointed his own eldest son Muhammad in charge of Sind, Multan and Lahore; the second son Nasiruddin Bughra Khan was put in charge of Sunam and Samana. The sons were provided with strong forces for the defence of these frontier regions. They succeeded in thwarting the Mongol raids in 1279.The invaders were subjected to great slaughter, and they were compelled to beat a hasty retreat. The Mongols were defeated a second time in 1285.
Meanwhile,Tughril Khan, the governor of Bengal, took advantage of the Mongol raids to declare his independence. He assumed the title of Sultan, struck coins and had the Khutba read in his name. Balban sent two expeditions against him but both resulted in failure. He led a third expedition against the rebel Tughril who fled the capital out of fear. He was captured and killed while his supporters were meted out the harshest punishment. Bughra Khan, the second son of Balban was made the governor of Bengal.
Balban had hardly dealt with the crisis in Bengal when the Mongols struck again. They appeared in the north-west and attacked Punjab in 1286. Balban’s eldest son, Muhammad tried to drive them out but lost his life in the attempt. Balban retook Lahore from the Mongols. But the loss of his son came as a deep shock to the Sultan. He maintained an even composure and went about the business of the day as usual. But the bereavement took a heavy toll of his health. He was eighty and he realized that his end was near. He summoned his second son Bughra Khan to Delhi but the latter fearing some danger kept away from Delhi. Balban then nominated Kai Khusrav, the son of his eldest son, Muhammad as his successor. The renowned Sultan Balban passed away in 1287 at the age of eighty.
Kai Khusrav and Kaiqabad
As mentioned above, Kai Khusrav had been nominated by Balban as his successor. But after Balban’s death, his nomination was set aside by Fakhruddin the Kotwal of Delhi. Kai Khusrav was later murdered by one of the nobles. Muiz-ud-din Qaiqabad, the son of Bughra Khan was chosen as the next ruler. Qaiqabad was only 17 years old at that time. He was a handsome lad with refined manners. He had been bought up by his grandfather who was a very strict disciplinarian.
But there was a drastic change in Qaiqabad’s character after he ascended the throne. He gave himself up completely to wine and women and his example was followed by his courtiers. He was very much under the influence of his minister Nizam-ud-din. At this time his father Bughra Khan, the governor of Bengal declared his independence. Muiz-ud-din Qaiqabad set out at the head of an army towards Bengal. His father’s forces met them near North Bihar but no conflict took place. Instead there was a sentimental reunion between father and son. Bughra Khan exhorted his son to attend to his royal duties. At the end, a lasting peace treaty was agreed upon between the Delhi Sultanate and Bengal.
On his return to Delhi Qaiqabad transferred his minister Nizam-ud-din to Multan, but the latter showed his unwillingness to comply with the royal order. The Sultan had his minister poisoned to death. He gave the fief of Baran to Jalal-ud-din Firuz and appointed him as the new commander of the army. But the Turkish nobility revolted against these two actions of the Sultan. It was at this time that Qaiqabad was affected by a paralytic stroke. The nobles placed Kayumars, the three year-old-son of Qaiqabad on the throne. But the infant Sultan was abducted by the sons of the commander Jalal-ud-din Firuz. The commander meanwhile marched towards Delhi at the head of his army and most of the nobility now submitted to him. In 1290 Qaiqabad and his infant son were murdered thus bringing to an end the Slave dynasty. Later, the same year Jalal-ud-din Firuz was enthroned in the palace at Kalughari which was situated a few miles from Delhi. His accession to the throne ushered in the rule of the Khalji dynasty.