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Delhi Sultanate


At 72.5 meters, the Qutab Minar is the tallest brick minaret in the world. It was begun by Qutb-ud-din Aybak, the first Muslim Sultan of Delhi and completed by Firuz Shah Tughluq, the eighteenth.

The Delhi Sultanate (دلی سلطنت), or Sulthanath-e-Hind (سلطنتِ ہند) / Sulthanath-e-Dilli (سلطنتِ دلی) refers to the various Muslim dynasties that ruled in India from 1210 to 1526. Several Turkic and Pashtun dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Slave dynasty (1206-90), the Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1413), the Sayyid dynasty (1414-51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451-1526). Effectively, the Sultanate was replaced by the Moghul Empire in 1526 although there was a brief revival under the Suri Sultans.

The main achievement of the Delhi Sultanate was its successful defense of India from Mongol invasion, although the Moghuls were themselves descended from Genghis Khan. During the Moghul period in India, Hindus, relations between Hindus and Muslims were generally good although there were times when Hindu sacred sites were desecrated and Hindus were persecuted. Yet to a considerable degree, Indian Islam meshed in with the land and the culture of India, creating a pluralist society.

The Mamluks

During the last quarter of the twelfth century, Muhammad of Ghor invaded the Indo-Gangetic plain, conquering in succession Ghazni, Multan, Sindh, Lahore, and Delhi. Qutb-ud-din Aybak, one of his generals, proclaimed himself Sultan of Delhi and established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, the Slave or Mamluk dynasty (mamluk means "slave") after Muhammad's death in 1206. Aybak was a slave soldier whom had risen through the ranks, hence the term Slave dynasty. The Egyptian Mamluks had also served as slaves of the Abbasid caliphs. The territory under control of the Sultans expanded rapidly. By mid-century, northern India from the Khyber Pass to Bengal was under control of the Sultanate, although the northwest was contested with the Mongols. Iltutmish (1210-35) and Balban (1266-87) were among the dynasty's most well-known rulers. Faced with revolts by conquered territories and rival families, the Mamluk dynasty came to an end in 1290. The Mamaluks ruled from 1206-90, expanding their territory and consolidating the Sultancy. The Delhi Sultanate is the only Sultanate to stake a claim to possessing one of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultan (1236-1240). While her reign was unfortunately short she is regarded well in the eyes of historians. The Princess Raziah Sultanah was very popular and more intelligent than her Brothers. She was the very first Queen of the Muslim World in the early muslim history of sub-continent. She ruled from the east Delhi to the west Peshawar and from the North Kashmir to the South Multan. The rebels of her government killed her and her husband Malik Altuniya.

Rulers of the Slave Dynasty (1206 - 1290)

  • Qutb-ud-din Aybak (1206 - 1210)
  • Aram Shah (1210 - 1211)
  • Altamas(Shams ud din Iltutmish) (1211 - 1236)
  • Rukn ud din Firuz (1236)
  • Razia Sultan (Raziyyat ud din Sultana) (1236 - 1240)
  • Muiz ud din Bahram (1240 - 1242)
  • Ala ud din Masud (1242 - 1246)
  • Nasir ud din Mahmud (1246 - 1266)
  • Ghiyas ud din Balban (1266 - 1286)
  • Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (1286 - 1290)
  • Kayumars (1290)

The Khilji Dynasty

The Khilji or Khalji dynasty, who had established themselves as rulers of Bengal in the time of Muhammad Ghori, took control of the empire in a coup which eliminated the last of the Mamluks. The Khiljis conquered Gujarat and Malwa, and sent the first expeditions south of the Narmada River, as far south as Tamil Nadu. The Delhi Sultanate rule continued to extend into southern India, first by the Delhi Sultans, then by the breakaway Bahmani Sultanate of Gulbarga, and, after the breakup of the Bahmani state in 1518, by the five independent Deccan Sultanates. The kingdom of Vijayanagar united southern India and arrested the Delhi Sultanate's expansion for a time, until its eventual fall to the Deccan Sultanates in 1565. Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah, the ladt ruler of this dynasty, was murdered by one of his courtiers, Khusraw Khan in 1320. His Sultanate only lasted a year before he was assassinated by the founder of the Tughlaq dynasty, Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq.

Rulers of the Khilji (Khalji) Dynasty (1290 - 1321)

  • Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji (1290 - 1294)
  • Ala ud din Khilji (1294 - 1316)
  • Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah (1316 - 1321)

Tughlaq Dynasty (1321 - 1398)

The main achievement of the Tughlaq's was the introduction of a monetary economy in the provinces (sarkars) and districts (parganas) that had been established and founded; a network of market centers through which the traditional village economies were both exploited and stimulated and drawn into the wider culture. State revenues remained based on successful agriculture, which induced Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325-51) to have village wells dug, offer seed to the peasants and to encourage cash crops like sugar cane (Braudel 1984, 96f, 512ff). The second Tughlaq Sultan moved the capital from Delhi to Daulatabad, which proved very unpopular and was subsequently reversed. After the sack of Delhi in 1398 during Timur's invasion of India, law and order broke down and the dynasty could not sustain its rule.

Rulers of the Tughlaq Dynasty (1321 - 1398)

  • Ghiyas ud din Tughluq Shah I (1321 - 1325)
  • Muhammad bin Tughluq (Muhammad Shah II) (1325 - 1351)
  • Mahmud Ibn Muhammad (March 1351)
  • Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351 - 1388)
  • Ghiyas ud din Tughluq II (1388 - 1389)
  • Abu Baker (1389 - 1390)
  • Nasir ud din Muhammad Shah III (1390 - 1393)
  • Sikander Shah I (March - April 1393)
  • Mahmud Nasir ud din (Sultan Mahmud II) at Delhi (1393 - 1394)
  • Nusrat Shah at Firuzabad (1394 - 1398)

Between 1413 and 1414 the Sultan was Daulat Khan (1413 - 1414) a member of the Lodi family. In 1414, the power vacuum created by Timur's invasion was filled by the first Sayyid Sultan.

Sayyid Dynasty

The Sayyids ruled at a chaotic time as India recovered from Timur's invasion. There were four Sultans in the period of 37 years. Their main achievement was the consolidation of the Muslim presence in Kashmir.

Sayyid Dynasty (Sayyid (Syed) Dynasty) (1414 - 1451)

  • Khidr Khan (1414 - 1421)
  • Mubarrak Shah II (1421 - 1435)
  • Muhammad Shah IV (1435 - 1445)
  • Aladdin Alam Shah (1445 - 1451)

Afghan Lohi Sultans

Following the death of the last Sayyid, Bahlul Lodi (or Lodhi) Lodhi, governor of Punjab, seized power. The Afghan Lodhi sultans left their mark on the capital through an architectural legacy but they could not sustain power. The third and last Lodhi Sultan, Ibrahim Lodi was both weak and corrupt, more interested in living the lifestyle of a Sultan than in governing or protecting his empire. A regional governor, and a member of his own family, actually invited Babur, who became the first Emperor to assume power.

Lodhi (Lodi) Dynasty (1451 - 1526)

  • Bahlul Khan Lodi (1451-1489)
  • Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517)
  • Ibrahim Lodi (Ibrahim II) (1517-1526)

The Suri Dynasty

Between Babur's defeat of Ibrahim Lodi in 1526 and 1540, the Moghul's ruled Delhi. In 1540, Sher Shah defeated the Moghuls at the battle of Chausa, and re-established the independent Delhi Sultanate until 1555 when Delhi was again conquered by the Moghuls.

Suri Dynasty (1540 - 1555)

  • Sher Shah (1540 - 1545)
  • Islam Shah (1545 - 1553)
  • Muhammad V of Delhi (Muhammad V) (1553 - 1554)
  • Firuz of Delhi (29 April - 2 May 1554)
  • Ibrahim III of Delhi (1554 - 1554/5)
  • Sikander Shah (1554/5 - 1555)


The Sultans of Delhi enjoyed cordial, if superficial, relations with other Muslim rulers in the Near East but owed them no allegiance. The Sultans based their laws on the Qur'an and the sharia and permitted non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion only if they paid jizya or head tax. The Sultans ruled from urban centers-while military camps and trading posts provided the nuclei for towns that sprang up in the countryside. Perhaps the greatest contribution of the Sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the thirteenth century.

The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. The Sultanate suffered from the sacking of Delhi in 1398 by Timur (Tamerlane), and soon other independent Sultanates were established in Awadh, Bengal, Jaunpur, Gujarat and Malwa. The Sultanate provided the foundation for the Moghul Empire, which continued to expand its territory.


  • Braudel, Fernand. Civilization and Capitalism, vol III: The perspective of the World. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992. ISBN 0520081161
  • Elliot, Henry Miers. The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians: The Muhammadan Period. Adamant Media Corporation, 2006. ISBN 0543947262
  • Jackson, Peter. The Delhi Sultanate. A Political and Military History. Cambridge; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999. ISBN 0521404770
  • Majumdar, R. C., (ed.). The History and Culture of the Indian People, Volume VI: The Delhi Sultanate, Volume VII: The Mughal Empire. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 1964-1977.
  • Nizami, Khaliq Ahmad. Some Aspects of Religion and Politics in India in the Thirteenth Century. Delhi: Idarah-i Adabiyat-i Delli, 1978.