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Chapter: 11th History : Chapter 10 : Advent of Arabs and turks

The Khaljis (1290-1320)

Jalal-ud-din Khalji (1290-1296), Ala-ud-din Khalji (1296–1316),

The Khaljis (1290-1320)

Jalal-ud-din Khalji (1290-1296)

As Balban’ son Kaiqubad was found unfit to rule, his three-year-old son Kaymars was placed on the throne. As there was no unanimity on the choice of a regent and a council to administer the empire, the contending nobles plotted against each other. Out of this chaos a new leader, Malik Jalal-ud-din Khalji, the commander of the army, emerged supreme. While he ruled the kingdom for some time in the name of Kaiqubad, he soon sent one of his officers to get Kaiqubad murdered and Jalal-ud-din formally ascended the throne. However, Jalal-ud-din faced opposition on the ground that he was an Afghan and not a Turk. But Khaljis were indeed Turks settled in Afghanistan before the establishment of Turkish rule and so they were Afghanized Turks. Jalal-ud-din won many battles and even in old age he marched out against the Mongol hordes and successfully halted their entry into India (1292).

Ala-ud-din, a nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin Khalji, who was appointed governor of Kara, invaded Malwa and this campaign yielded a huge booty. The success of this campaign stimulated his urge to embark on a campaign to raid Devagiri, the capital city of the Yadava kingdom in Deccan. On his return he arranged to get Jalaluddin Khalji murdered and captured the throne.

Ala-ud-din Khalji (1296–1316)

Ala-ud-din and Nobles

Ala-ud-din spent the first year of his rule in eliminating the enemies and strengthening his position in Delhi. Soon he turned his attention to establishing a firm hold over the nobles. He dismissed several of his top officers. He was particularly severe with the nobles who had shifted loyalty and opportunistically joined him against Jalal-ud-din.

Mongol Threats

Mongol raids posed a serious challenge to Ala-ud-din. During the second year of his rule (1298), when Mongols stormed Delhi, the army sent by Ala-ud-din succeeded in driving them back. But when they returned the following year with more men, people of the suburbs of Delhi had to flee and take refuge in the city. Ala-ud-din had to meet the problem head-on. In the ensuing battle, Mongols were routed. Yet raids continued until 1305, when they ravaged the doab region. This time, after defeating them, the Sultan’s army took a large number of Mongols as prisoners and slaughtered them mercilessly. But the Mongol menace continued. The last major Mongol incursion took place in 1307–08.

Military Campaigns

The inability of the Sultanate to effectively harness the agrarian resources of its North Indian territories to sustain its political ambitions was evident in its relentless military campaigns in search of loot and plunder. Ala-ud-din’s campaigns into Devagiri (1296, 1307, 1314), Gujarat (1299–1300), Ranthambhor (1301), Chittor (1303) and Malwa (1305) were meant to proclaim his political and military power as well as to collect loot from the defeated kingdoms. It was with the same plan that he unleashed his forces into the Deccan. The first target in the peninsula was Devagiri in the western Deccan. Ala-ud-din sent a large army commanded by Malik Kafur in 1307 to capture Devagiri fort. Following Devagiri, Prataparudradeva, the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal in the Telengana region, was defeated in 1309. In 1310 the Hoysala ruler Vira Ballala III surrendered all his treasures to the Delhi forces.

Malik Kafur then set out for the Tamil country. Though Kafur’s progress was obstructed by heavy rains and floods, he continued his southward journey, plundering and ravaging the temple cities of Chidambaram and Srirangam as well as the Pandyan capital Madurai. Muslims in Tamil provinces fought on the side of the Pandyas against Malik Kafur. Malik Kafur advised them to desert so that he would not have any occasion to spill the blood of his fellow Muslims. Though there are exaggerated versions about the amount of booty he carried, there is no denying the fact that he returned to Delhi with an enormous booty in 1311. After Malik Kafur’s invasion, the Pandya kingdom suffered an eclipse and a Muslim state subordinate to the Delhi Sultan came to be established in Madurai. In 1335 the Muslim Governor of Madurai Jalal-ud-din Asan Shah threw off his allegiance to Delhi kingdom and declared his independence.

Ala-ud-din’s Internal Reforms

The vast annexation of territories was followed by extensive administrative reforms aimed at stabilising the government. Ala-ud-din’s first measure was to deprive the nobles of the wealth they had accumulated. It had provided them the leisure and means to hatch conspiracies against the Sultan. Marriage alliances between families of noble men were permitted only with the consent of the Sultan. The Sultan ordered that villages held by proprietary right, as free gift, or as a religious endowment be brought back under the royal authority and control.

He curbed the powers of the traditional village officers by depriving them of their traditional privileges. Corrupt royal officials were dealt with sternly. The Sultan prohibited liquor and banned the use of intoxicating drugs. Gambling was forbidden and gamblers were driven out of the city. However, the widespread violations of prohibition rules eventually forced the Sultan to relax the restrictions.

Ala-ud-din collected land taxes directly from the cultivators. The village headman who traditionally enjoyed the right to collect them was now deprived of it. The tax pressure of Ala-ud-din was on the rich and not on the poor. Ala-ud-din set up the postal system to keep in touch with all parts of his sprawling empire.

Sultan’s Market Reforms

Ala-ud-din was the first Sultan to pay his soldiers in cash rather than give them a share

of booty. As the soldiers were paid less, the prices had to be monitored and controlled. Moreover, Ala-ud-din had to maintain a huge standing army. In order to restrict prices of essential commodities, Ala-ud-din set up an elaborate intelligence network to collect information on black-marketing and hoarding. The transactions in the bazaars, the buying and selling and the bargains made were all reported to the Sultan by his spies. Market superintendents, reporters and spies had to send daily reports on the prices of essential commodities. Violators of the price regulations were severely punished. If any deficiency in weight was found, an equal weight of flesh was cut from the seller’s body and thrown down before his eyes!

Ala-ud-din’s Successors

Ala-ud-din nominated his eldest son Khizr Khan,ashissuccessor.However,Ala-ud-din’s confidant at that time was Malik Kafur. So Malik Kafur himself assumed the authority of the government. But Kafur’s rule lasted only thirty-five days as he was assassinated by hostile nobles. Thereafter there were a series of murders which culminated in Ghazi Malik, a veteran of several campaigns against the Mongols, ascending the throne of Delhi in 1320 as Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq. He murdered the incumbent Khalji ruler Khusrau and thereby prevented anyone from Khalji dynasty claiming the throne. Thus began the rule of the Tughlaq Dynasty, which lasted until 1414.

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