The empire which ruled North India from AD 1206 to AD 1526 was known as the Delhi Sultanate because Delhi was their capital (the seat of their empire) and the kings were known as Sultans. Five successive dynasties ruled Delhi. These were the Slave Dynasty, Khilji Dynasty, Tughlaq Dynasty, Sayyid Dynasty and Lodi Dynasty.
The Slave Dynasty (1206-1290 AD)
Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210)
- After annexing various parts of northern India, Muhammad Ghori appointed his able slave Qutb-ud-din Aibak as the Governor of the Indian provinces.
- Qutb-ud-din Aibak founded the slave dynasty. Because the Sultans of the Slave dynasty were either the slaves of the Turks or the sons of the slaves, they were also known as Mamluk Sultans.
- Qutb-ud-din Aibak captured the forts of Kalinjar in Bundelkhand and Anhilwara in Gujarat.
- He died because of a sudden fall from a horse while playing polo.
- Aram Shah succeeded his father Qutb-ud-din Aibak. However, he proved to be an incapable ruler. He was overthrown by Iltutmish, the slave and son in law of Aibak.
- Iltutmish successfully defeated most of his enemies and suppressed several revolts. One of his tactical achievements was the denial of refuge to Jalaluddin, the ruler of Iran who was being pursued by Chenghez Khan in 1221.
- Iltutmish feared a possible Mongol attack on India in the case of not providing shelter to Jalaluddin. He thus acted wisely and saved his kingdom from a possible Mongol attack.
- To reduce the powers of the nobles of his court, Iltutmish formed a group of forty nobles known as ‘Turkan-i-Chahalgani’ or ‘Chalisa’ which were a group of elite nobles.
- He divided his empire into various big and small iqtas, and sometimes gave iqtas to nobles and military commanders in lieu of salary.
- One important contribution of Iltutmish was that he introduced a silver coin known as ‘tanka’ and a copper coin known as ‘jital’ as standard coins during the Sultanate Period.
- He was the son of Iltutmish and was crowned by her mother, Shah Turkan, after death of Iltutmish.
- He was deposed by Razia, daughter of Iltutmish when he was out of capital to curb a rebellion in Avadh against him.
Razia Sultan (1236-1240)
- After the death of Iltutmish, Razia became the first woman Sultan of Delhi in 1236.
- Razia had to face many challenges from powerful nobles who were not willing to accept a woman as a ruler. The Turkish nobles wanted a puppet ruler who could govern according to their wishes. Razia however was not willing to rule according to their desires.
- Razia Sultan dressed like a man and led armies into battlefield. She did not practice ‘purdah’, held open court, listened to the problems of her subjects and supervised the work of every department.
- When the provincial governors of some territories revolted against her, she failed to crush their power. Later, Razia married Altunia, the leader of a rebel group, to pacify them. However, both Razia and Altunia were killed in 1240.
- After the death of Razia Sultan, a line of weak rulers ruled Delhi. They were not able to consolidate the empire.
- Balban became the ruler of Delhi in 1266. He was a powerful noble who later became the Sultan of Delhi. He suppressed the powerful nobles and strengthened the powers of monarchy in the state.
Bahram Shah (1240-42)
- After Razia, Iltutmish’s third son Bahram Shah was put on the throne by the powerful turkish council Chalisa
- He was considered only as de jure ruler, while Naib-e-mamlakat (the regent) was the de facto ruler.
- Bahram Shah lost his life after his failed attempt to assert his authority once on the throne.
Masud Shah (1242-46)
He was the son of Ruknuddin but was deposed after Balban and Nasiruddin Mahamud’s Mother, Malika-e-Jahan conspired against him and established Nasiruddin Mahamud as the new Sultan.
Nasiruddin Mahamud (1246-66)
He was the son of Iltutmish and was known as the Darvesi King as he was very pious and noble. He died in 1266.
Ghiyasuddin Balban (1266-87)
- Balban ascended the throne in 1266.
- He broke the power of Chalisa and restored the prestige of the crown. That was his greatest contribution towards the stability of the Sultanate.
- To keep himself well-informed Balban appointed spies.
- He created a strong centralised army to deal with internal disturbances and to cheek Mongols who were posing a serious danger to Delhi Sultante.
- He established the military department Diwan-i-Arz.
- The Persian court model influenced Balban’s conception of Kingship. He took up the title of Zil-1-llahi (Shadow of God).
- He introduced Sijda (prostration before the monarch) and Paibos (kissing the feet of monarch) as the normal forms of salutation.
- He destroyed the Mewati Rajputa brigandage in the doab, where forests were cut and forts built.
- In his last days he overlooked the Sultanate affairs due to the death of his eldest and most loving son, Muhammad, and rebellion by his closest and most loved slave, Tughril. Muhammad died fighting the Mongolians in 1285 while Tughril was captured and beheaded.
A grandson of Balban was seated on the throne by Fakruddin, the Kotwal of Delhi who assumed high political authority during the last days of Balban. But Kaiqubad was killed by the Khiliji family, which saw the end of Slave dynasty and beginning of Khiliji dynasty at Delhi throne.
Also, Read The Khilji Dynasty: 1290-1320 AD