The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–1290), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). It covered large swathes of territory in modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh as well as some parts of southern Nepal.
Delhi Sultanate Timeline
PrologueWestern Punjab, Pakistan
By 962 AD, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in South Asia faced a series of raids from Muslim armies from Central Asia. Among them was Mahmud of Ghazni, the son of a Turkic Mamluk military slave, who raided and plundered kingdoms in north India from east of the Indus river to west of Yamuna river seventeen times between 997 and 1030. Mahmud of Ghazni raided the treasuries but retracted each time, only extending Islamic rule into western Punjab. The series of raids on north Indian and western Indian kingdoms by Muslim warlords continued after Mahmud of Ghazni. The raids did not establish or extend the permanent boundaries of the Islamic kingdoms. In contrast, the Ghurid Sultan Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori (commonly known as Muhammad of Ghor) began a systematic war of expansion into north India in 1173. He sought to carve out a principality for himself and expand the Islamic world. Muhammad of Ghor created a Sunni Islamic kingdom of his own extending east of the Indus river, and he thus laid the foundation for the Muslim kingdom called the Delhi Sultanate. Some historians chronicle the Delhi Sultanate from 1192 due to the presence and geographical claims of Muhammad Ghori in South Asia by that time. Ghori was assassinated in 1206, by Ismāʿīlī Shia Muslims in some accounts or by Khokhars in others. After the assassination, one of Ghori's slaves (or mamluks, Arabic: مملوك), the Turkic Qutb al-Din Aibak, assumed power, becoming the first Sultan of Delhi.
Delhi Sultanate beginsLahore, Pakistan
Qutb al-Din Aibak, a former slave of Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori (known more commonly as Muhammad of Ghor), was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. Aibak was of Cuman-Kipchak (Turkic) origin, and due to his lineage, his dynasty is known as the Mamluk (Slave origin) dynasty (not to be confused with the Mamluk dynasty of Iraq or the Mamluk dynasty of Egypt). Aibak reigned as the Sultan of Delhi for four years, from 1206 to 1210. Aibak was known for his generosity and people called him Lakhdata.
Iltutmish takes powerLahore, Pakistan
Qutb Minar completedDelhi, India
Third Mongols Invasions of IndiaMultan, Pakistan
The Mongol Empire launched several invasions into the Indian subcontinent from 1221 to 1327, with many of the later raids made by the Qaraunas of Mongol origin. The Mongols occupied parts of the subcontinent for decades. As the Mongols progressed into the Indian hinterland and reached the outskirts of Delhi, the Delhi Sultanate led a campaign against them in which the Mongol army suffered serious defeats.
Mongol conquest of KashmirKashmir, Pakistan
Sultana RaziyyaDelhi, India
Mongols destroy LahoreLahore, Pakistan
Ghiyas ud din BalbanDelhi, India
Ghiyas ud Din was the regent of the last Shamsi sultan, Nasiruddin Mahmud. He reduced the power of the nobility and heightened the stature of the sultan. His original name was Baha Ud Din. He was an Ilbari Turk. When he was young he was captured by the Mongols, taken to Ghazni and sold to Khawaja Jamal ud-din of Basra, a Sufi. The latter then brought him to Delhi in 1232 along with other slaves, and all of them were purchased by Iltutmish. Balban belonged to the famous group of 40 Turkic slaves of Iltutmish. Ghiyas made several conquests, some of them as vizier. He routed the Mewats that harassed Delhi and reconquered Bengal, all while successfully facing the Mongol threat, a struggle that cost his son and heir's life. In spite of having only a few military achievements, Balban reformed civil and military lines that earned him a stable and prosperous government granting him the position, along with Shams ud-din Iltutmish and the later Alauddin Khalji, one of the most powerful rulers of Delhi Sultanate.
Amir Khusrau bornDelhi, India
Battle of Beas RiverBeas River
Bughra Khan claims BengalGauḍa, West Bengal, India
Khalji dynastyDelhi, India
The Khalji dynasty was of Turko-Afghan heritage. They were originally of Turkic origin. They had long been settled in present-day Afghanistan before proceeding to Delhi in India. The name "Khalji" refers to an Afghan town known as Qalati Khalji ("Fort of Ghilji"). They were treated by others as Afghan due to adoption of some Afghan habits and customs. The first ruler of the Khalji dynasty was Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji. He came to power after the Khalji revolution which marked the transfer of power from the monopoly of Turkic nobles to a heterogeneous Indo-Muslim nobility. The Khalji and Indo-Muslim faction had been strengthened by an ever-increasing number of converts, and took power through a series of assassinations. Muiz ud-Din Kaiqabad was assassinated and Jalal-ad din took power in a military coup. He was around 70 years old at the time of his ascension, and was known as a mild-mannered, humble and kind monarch to the general public. As a Sultan, he repulsed a Mongol invasion, and allowed many Mongols to settle in India after their conversion to Islam. He captured Mandawar and Jhain from the Chahamana king Hammira, although he was unable to capture the Chahamana capital Ranthambore.
Assassination of Jalal-ud-dinKara, Uttar Pradesh, India
In July 1296, Jalal-ud-din marched to Kara with a large army to meet Ali during the holy month of Ramazan. He directed his commander Ahmad Chap to take the major part of the army to Kara by land, while he himself journeyed down the Ganges River with 1,000 soldiers. When Jalal-ud-din's entourage came close to Kara, Ali sent Almas Beg to meet him. Almas Beg convinced Jalal-ud-din to leave behind his soldiers, saying that their presence would frighten Ali into committing suicide. Jalal-ud-din boarded a boat with a few of his companions, who were made to unbuckle their weapons. As they rode the boat, they saw Ali's armed troops stationed along the riverbank. Almas told them that these troops had been summoned to accord a worthy reception to Jalal-ud-din. Jalal-ud-din complained about Ali's lack of courtesy in not coming to greet him at this point. However, Almas convinced him of Ali's loyalty by saying that Ali was busy arranging a presentation of the loot from Devagiri and a feast for him. Satisfied by this explanation, Jalal-ud-din continued his journey to Kara, reciting Quran on the boat. When he landed at Kara, Ali's retinue greeted him, and Ali ceremoniously threw himself at his feet. Jalal-ud-din lovingly raised Ali, gave him a kiss on cheek, and chided him for doubting his uncle's affection. At this point, Ali signaled his follower Muhammad Salim, who struck Jalal-ud-din with his sword twice. Jalal-ud-din survived the first blow, and ran towards his boat, but the second blow killed him. Ali raised the royal canopy over his head, and proclaimed himself the new Sultan. Jalal-ud-din's head was put on a spear and paraded across Ali's provinces of Kara-Manikpur and Awadh. His companions on the boat were also killed, and Ahmad Chap's army retreated to Delhi.
Alauddin KhaljiDelhi, India
In 1296, Alauddin raided Devagiri, and acquired loot to stage a successful revolt against Jalaluddin. After killing Jalaluddin, he consolidated his power in Delhi, and subjugated Jalaluddin's sons in Multan. Over the next few years, Alauddin successfully fended off the Mongol invasions from the Chagatai Khanate, at Jaran-Manjur (1297–1298), Sivistan (1298), Kili (1299), Delhi (1303), and Amroha (1305). In 1306, his forces achieved a decisive victory against the Mongols near the Ravi riverbank, and later ransacked the Mongol territories in present-day Afghanistan. The military commanders that successfully led his army against the Mongols include Zafar Khan, Ulugh Khan, and his slave-general Malik Kafur. Alauddin conquered the kingdoms of Gujarat (raided in 1299 and annexed in 1304), Ranthambore (1301), Chittor (1303), Malwa (1305), Siwana (1308), and Jalore (1311).
Battle of Jaran-ManjurJalandhar, India
Mongol invasion of SindhSehwan Sharif, Pakistan
Conquest of GujaratGujarat, India
After becoming the Sultan of Delhi in 1296, Alauddin Khalji spent a few years consolidating his power. Once he had strengthened his control over the Indo-Gangetic plains, he decided to invade Gujarat. Gujarat was one of the wealthiest regions of India, because of its fertile soil and the Indian Ocean trade. Moreover, a large number of Muslim traders lived in the port cities of Gujarat. Alauddin's conquest of Gujarat would make it convenient for the Muslim merchants of north India to participate in international trade. In 1299, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji sent an army to ransack the Gujarat region of India, which was ruled by the Vaghela king Karna. The Delhi forces plundered several major cities of Gujarat, including Anahilavada (Patan), Khambhat, Surat and Somnath. Karna was able to regain control of at least a part of his kingdom in the later years. However, in 1304, a second invasion by Alauddin's forces permanently ended the Vaghela dynasty, and resulted in the annexation of Gujarat to the Delhi Sultanate.
Battle of KiliKili, near Delhi, India
Conquest of RanthamboreSawai Madhopur, Rajasthan, Ind
First Mongol invasion of IndiaDelhi, India
In 1303, a Mongol army from the Chagatai Khanate launched an invasion of the Delhi Sultanate, when two major units of the Delhi army were away from the city. The Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji, who was away at Chittor when the Mongols started their march, returned to Delhi in a hurry. However, he was unable to make adequate war preparations, and decided to take shelter in a well-guarded camp at the under-construction Siri Fort. The Mongols, led by Taraghai, besieged Delhi for over two months, and ransacked its suburbs. Ultimately, they decided to retreat, having been unable to breach Alauddin's camp. The invasion was one of the most serious Mongol invasions of India, and prompted Alauddin to take several measures to prevent its recurrence. He strengthened military presence along the Mongol routes to India, and implemented economic reforms to ensure adequate revenue streams for maintaining a strong army.
Siege of ChittorgarhChittorgarh, Rajasthan, India
In 1303, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji captured the Chittor Fort from the Guhila king Ratnasimha, after an eight month long siege. The conflict has been described in several legendary accounts, including the historic epic poem Padmavat, which claims that Alauddin's motive was to obtain Ratnasimha's beautiful wife Padmavati; this legend is considered historically inaccurate by most historians.
Conquest of MalwaMalwa, Madhya Pradesh, India
In 1305, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji sent an army to capture the Paramara kingdom of Malwa in central India. The Delhi army defeated and killed the powerful Paramara minister Goga, while the Paramara king Mahalakadeva took shelter in the Mandu fort. Alauddin appointed Ayn al-Mulk Multani as the governor of Malwa. After consolidating his power in Malwa, Ayn al-Mulk besieged Mandu and killed Mahalakadeva.
Battle of AmrohaAmroha district, Uttar Pradesh
Second Mongol invasion of IndiaRavi River Tributary, Pakistan
In 1306, the Chagatai Khanate ruler Duwa sent an expedition to India, to avenge the Mongol defeat in 1305. The invading army included three contingents led by Kopek, Iqbalmand, and Tai-Bu. To the check the invaders' advance, the Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji dispatched an army led by Malik Kafur, and supported by other generals such as Malik Tughluq. The Delhi army achieved a decisive victory, killing tens of thousands of the invaders. The Mongol captives were brought to Delhi, where they were either killed or sold into slavery. After this defeat, the Mongols did not invade the Delhi Sultanate during Alauddin's reign. The victory greatly emboldened Alauddin's general Tughluq, who launched several punitive raids in the Mongol territories of present-day Afghanistan.
Malik Kafur capture WarangalWarangal, India
Conquest of DevagiriDaulatabad Fort, India
Conquest of JaloreJalore, Rajasthan, India
In 1311 Delhi Sultanate ruler Alauddin Khalji dispatched an army to capture the Jalore Fort in present-day Rajasthan, India. Jalore was ruled by the Chahamana ruler Kanhadadeva, whose armies had earlier fought several skirmishes with the Delhi forces, especially since Alauddin's conquest of the neighboring Siwana fort. Kanhadadeva's army achieved some initial successes against the invaders, but the Jalore fort ultimately fell to an army led by Alauddin's general Malik Kamal al-Din. Kanhadadeva and his son Viramadeva were killed, thus ending the Chahamana dynasty of Jalore.
Tughlaq dynastyDelhi, India
The last Khalji ruler was Ala ud-Din Khalji's 18-year-old son Qutb ud-Din Mubarak Shah Khalji, who ruled for four years before he was killed by Khusro Khan, another slave-general with Hindu origins, who reverted from Islam and favoured his Hindu Baradu military clan in the nobility. Khusro Khan's reign lasted only a few months, when Ghazi Malik, later to be called Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq, defeated him with the help of Punjabi Khokhar tribesmen and assumed power in 1320, thus ending the Khalji dynasty and starting the Tughlaq dynasty. The dynasty expanded its territorial reach through a military campaign led by Muhammad bin Tughluq, and reached its zenith between 1330 and 1335. It ruled most of the Indian subcontinent. 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.
Ghiyasuddin TughlaqTughlakabad, India
After assuming power, Ghazi Malik renamed himself as Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq - thus starting and naming the Tughlaq dynasty. He was of mixed Turko-Indian origins; his mother was a Jatt noble and his father was likely descended from Indian Turkic slaves. He lowered the tax rate on Muslims that was prevalent during Khalji dynasty, but raised the taxes on Hindus. He built a city six kilometers east of Delhi, with a fort considered more defensible against the Mongol attacks, and called it Tughlakabad. In 1321, he sent his eldest son Ulugh Khan, later known as Muhammad bin Tughlaq, to Deogir to plunder the Hindu kingdoms of Arangal and Tilang (now part of Telangana). His first attempt was a failure. Four months later, Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq sent large army reinforcements for his son asking him to attempt plundering Arangal and Tilang again. This time Ulugh Khan succeeded. Arangal fell, was renamed to Sultanpur, and all plundered wealth, state treasury and captives were transferred from the captured kingdom to Delhi Sultanate. His reign was cut short after five years when he died under mysterious circumstances in 1325.
Muhammad TughluqTughlaqabad Fort, India
Muhammad bin Tughlaq was an intellectual, with extensive knowledge of the Quran, Fiqh, poetry and other fields. He was also deeply suspicious of his kinsmen and wazirs (ministers), extremely severe with his opponents, and took decisions that caused economic upheaval. For example, he ordered minting of coins from base metals with face value of silver coins - a decision that failed because ordinary people minted counterfeit coins from base metal they had in their houses and used them to pay taxes and jizya.
Capital relocated to DaulatabadDaulatabad, Maharashtra, India
In 1327, Tughluq ordered to move his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad (in present-day Maharashtra) in the Deccan region of India. The purpose of transferring the entire Muslim elite to Daulatabad was to enroll them in his mission of world conquest. He saw their role as propagandists who would adapt Islamic religious symbolism to the rhetoric of empire, and that the Sufis could by persuasion bring many of the inhabitants of the Deccan to become Muslim. In 1334 there was a rebellion in Mabar. While on his way to suppress the rebellion, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague at Bidar due to which Tughluq himself became ill, and many of his soldiers died. While he retreated back to Daulatabad, Mabar and Dwarsamudra broke away from Tughluq's control. This was followed by a revolt in Bengal. Fearing that the sultanate's northern borders were exposed to attacks, in 1335, he decided to shift the capital back to Delhi, allowing the citizens to return to their previous city.
Token Currency FailureDelhi, India
Vijayanagara EmpireVijayanagaram, Andhra Pradesh,
The Vijayanagara Empire, also called Karnata Kingdom, was based in the Deccan Plateau region in South India. It was established in 1336 by the brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I of the Sangama dynasty, members of a pastoralist cowherd community that claimed Yadava lineage. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. At its peak, it subjugated almost all of South India's ruling families and pushed the sultans of the Deccan beyond the Tungabhadra-Krishna river doab region, in addition to annexing modern day Odisha (ancient Kalinga) from the Gajapati Kingdom thus becoming a notable power. It lasted until 1646, although its power declined after a major military defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the combined armies of the Deccan sultanates. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India. The wealth and fame of the empire inspired visits by and writings of medieval European travelers such as Domingo Paes, Fernão Nunes, and Niccolò de' Conti. These travelogues, contemporary literature and epigraphy in the local languages and modern archeological excavations at Vijayanagara has provided ample information about the history and power of the empire. The empire's legacy includes monuments spread over South India, the best known of which is the group at Hampi. Different temple building traditions in South and Central India were merged into the Vijayanagara architecture style.
Bengal SultanatePandua, West Bengal, India
Firuz Shah TughlaqDelhi, India
He succeeded his cousin Muhammad bin Tughlaq following the latter's death at Thatta in Sindh, where Muhammad bin Tughlaq had gone in pursuit of Taghi the ruler of Gujarat. Due to widespread unrest, his realm was much smaller than Muhammad's. He faced many rebellions, including in Bengal, Gujarat and Warangal. Nonetheless he worked to improve the infrastructure of the empire building canals, rest-houses and hospitals, creating and refurbishing reservoirs and digging wells. He founded several cities around Delhi, including Jaunpur, Firozpur, Hissar, Firozabad, Fatehabad. He established Sharia across his realm.
Attempts to reconquer BengalPandua, West Bengal, India
Tughlaq Civil WarsDelhi, India
The first civil war broke out in 1384 AD four years before the death of aging Firoz Shah Tughlaq, while the second civil war started in 1394 AD six years after Firoz Shah was dead. These civil wars were primarily between different factions of Sunni Islam aristocracy, each seeking sovereignty and land to tax dhimmis and extract income from resident peasants. While the civil war was in progress, predominantly Hindu populations of Himalayan foothills of north India had rebelled, stopped paying Jizya and Kharaj taxes to Sultan's officials. Hindus of southern Doab region of India (now Etawah) joined the rebellion in 1390 AD. Tartar Khan installed a second Sultan, Nasir-al-din Nusrat Shah in Ferozabad, few kilometers from the first Sultan seat of power in late 1394. The two Sultans claimed to be rightful ruler of South Asia, each with a small army, controlled by a coterie of Muslim nobility. Battles occurred every month, duplicity and switching of sides by amirs became commonplace, and the civil war between the two Sultan factions continued through 1398, till the invasion by Timur.
Timur sacks DelhiDelhi, India
In 1398, Timur started his campaign towards Indian subcontinent (Hindustan). At that time the dominant power of subcontinent was Tughlaq dynasty of Delhi Sultanate but it had already been weakened by the formation of regional sultanates and struggle of succession within imperial family. Timur started his journey from Samarkand. He invaded the north Indian subcontinent (present day Pakistan and North India) by crossing the Indus River on September 30, 1398. He was opposed by Ahirs, Gujjars and Jats but Delhi Sultanate did nothing to stop him. The battle between Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Tughlaq allied with Mallu Iqbal and Timur took place on 17 December 1398. Indian forces had war elephants armored with chain mail and poison on their tusks which gave difficult time to Timurid forces as Tatars experienced this first time. But within a passage of time Timur had understood that elephants were easily panicked. He capitalized on the subsequent disruption in the forces of Nasir-ud-Din Tughluq, securing an easy victory. Sultan of Delhi fled with remnants of his forces. Delhi was sacked and left in ruins. After the battle, Timur installed Khizr Khan, the Governor of Multan as the new Sultan of Delhi Sultanate under his suzerainty. Delhi's conquest was one of the greatest victories of Timur, arguably surpassing Darius the Great, Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan because of the harsh conditions of the journey and the achievement of taking down the richest city of the world at the time. Delhi suffered a great loss due to this and took a century to recover.
Sayyid dynastyDelhi, India
Lodi dynastyDelhi, India
The Lodi dynasty belonged to the Pashtun Lodi tribe. Bahlul Khan Lodi started the Lodi dynasty and was the first Pashtun, to rule the Delhi Sultanate. The most important event of his reign was the conquest of Jaunpur. Bahlul spent most of his time in fighting against the Sharqi dynasty and ultimately annexed it. Thereafter, the region from Delhi to Varanasi (then at the border of Bengal province), was back under influence of Delhi Sultanate. Bahlul did much to stop rebellions and uprisings in his territories, and extended his holdings over Gwalior, Jaunpur and upper Uttar Pradesh. Just like the previous Delhi Sultans, he kept Delhi the capital of his kingdom.
Sikandar LodiAgra, Uttar Pradesh, India
Sikandar Lodi (born Nizam Khan), the second son of Bahlul, succeeded him after his death on 17 July 1489 and took up the title Sikandar Shah. He founded Agra in 1504 and built mosques. He shifted the capital from Delhi to Agra. He abolished corn duties and patronized trade and commerce. He was a poet of repute, composing under the pen-name of Gulruk. He was also patron of learning and ordered Sanskrit work in medicine to be translated into Persian. He curbed the individualistic tendencies of his Pashtun nobles and compelled them to submit their accounts to state audit. He was, thus, able to infuse vigor and discipline in the administration. His greatest achievement was the conquest and annexation of Bihar. In 1501, he captured Dholpur, a dependency of Gwalior, whose ruler Vinayaka-deva fled to Gwalior. In 1504, Sikandar Lodi resumed his war against the Tomaras. First, he captured the Mandrayal fort, located to the east of Gwalior. He ransacked the area around Mandrayal, but many of his soldiers lost their lives in a subsequent epidemic outbreak, forcing him to return to Delhi. Sikandar Lodi's tried to conquer Gwalior fort for five times remained unfulfilled as each time he was defeated by Raja Man Singh I.
End of the Delhi SultanatePanipat, India
Sikandar Lodi died a natural death in 1517, and his second son Ibrahim Lodi assumed power. Ibrahim did not enjoy the support of Afghan and Persian nobles or regional chiefs. The governor of Punjab, Daulat Khan Lodi, Ibrahim's uncle, reached out to the Mughal Babur and invited him to attack the Delhi Sultanate.
Ibrahim Lodi had the qualities of an excellent warrior, but he was rash and impolitic in his decisions and actions. His attempt at royal absolutism was premature and his policy of sheer repression unaccompanied by measures to strengthen the administration and increase the military resources was sure to prove a failure. Ibrahim faced numerous rebellions and kept out the opposition for almost a decade.
The Lodi Dynasty fell after the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 during which Babur defeated the far larger Lodi armies and killed Ibrahim Lodi. Babur founded the Mughal Empire, which would rule India until the British Raj brought it down in 1857.
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Ghiyas ud din Balban
Muhammad of Ghor
Qutb al-Din Aibak
Muhammad bin Tughluq
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